A Mississippi sheriff says a man was beaten and shot two weeks after calling authorities to report a cross burning in his yard, and investigators are trying to determine whether the attack was prompted by people being upset that the man was visited by his mixed-race grandchildren.
Deputies were called to a disturbance late last week in a rural community outside Raleigh. Craig Wilson, 45, had been shot in the stomach and beaten and was taken to University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, said Smith County Sheriff Charlie Crumpton. He was in fair condition on Aug. 19, a hospital spokesman said.
Investigators heard numerous reports from relatives about what might have started a confrontation between Wilson and 37-year-old Jeff Daniels, Crumpton said. Among other things, the sheriff said investigators were checking whether it might have been connected to people being upset about visits from Wilson's mixed-race grandchildren. The children's mother — Craig Wilson's daughter — is white, and their father is black, the sheriff said.
Crumpton said Daniels was arrested and booked with aggravated assault. He was released on Aug. 18 on $20,000 bond.
Wilson and Daniels are both white. The victim is the boyfriend of the arrested man's mother, Crumpton said.
Crumpton said he doesn't know whether there's a connection between the cross burning and the shooting. He said Wilson called the sheriff's department and investigators went to see the burned cross, but Wilson didn't press charges.
The cross burning and the shooting and beating took place in the Cohay community of Smith County, about 45 miles southeast of Jackson, where Wilson and Daniels are neighbors, the sheriff said.
Wilson and relatives were having a cookout when a confrontation erupted, witnesses said. Wilson's sister, Julie Wilson, told WLBT-TV that Daniels and his son, who's a minor, showed up at Craig Wilson's home and a confrontation erupted.
"They called him some severe names and then they told him to leave and they chased him off his porch around his house and beat him with brass knuckles and then shot him with his own gun," Julie Wilson told the TV station.
Wilson's sister-in-law, Anita Wilson, told AP on Aug. 19 that she talked to Craig Wilson the night the cross was burned in the yard of the home he shares with Gaylene Daniels. Craig Wilson has three grandsons who are 4, 5 and 6 and a granddaughter who's 3, and Anita Wilson said the grandsons were visiting the couple and inside the home when the cross was burned. She said Craig Wilson told her that Jeff Daniels had yelled a racial epithet about children, saying they shouldn't be at the home.
Anita Wilson said the children were not at the home the night of the shooting. She considers the shooting a hate crime, but the sheriff said the district attorney told him Mississippi's hate-crime law could only apply if both the shooter and the victim are not of the same race.
"How do they not understand it's a hate crime when it was over the kids?" Anita Wilson said.
The state hate-crimes law was enacted in 1994 but has seldom been used to prosecute cases.
Crumpton said a case against Daniels could be presented to the grand jury, probably in October.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Daniels has an attorney.