11.16.2008

FRIENDS DON’T “LYNCH” FRIENDS: Dragging Death in Paris, Texas a HATE CRIME


Written by Guest Blogger Deric Muhammad

Usually when you tell someone that you are about to take a trip to Paris, they smile and bid you a good time in the international city that is synonymous with love. But when you clarify that your destination is Paris, Texas you may evoke a different response.

While Paris, France may conjure up images of romance and love, the September 16th dragging death of Brandon McClelland in Paris, Texas is now fostering images of racial hatred. This small town has a busy history of lynching, racial bias and hate crimes. That history seems to have been updated by McClelland’s two white murderers who now have the unmitigated gall to call themselves his friends. It was an apparent “copycat crime” mirroring the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas. And to add insult to injury, the Lamar county district attorney is refusing to call Brandon’s murder a hate crime.

After hearing about this barbaric, inhumane tragedy I traveled to Paris along with the New Black Panther Party and Final Call Newspaper reporter Jesse Muhammad. After meeting and praying with the McClelland family we were escorted to the country road where the murder occurred. Local authorities reported that Brandon’s body was dragged 60 yards by the truck. However, we found over 140 yards of human blood that militarily followed tire tracks. The truck that dragged McClelland appeared to have driven in circles (termed “doughnuts”) with blood following tracks on and off-road. We found human remains (skull fractures) still at the scene which was supposed to have been secured by investigators after the incident. The McClelland family told us that they felt they were strong armed into burying Brandon faster than they wished. I could fill up an entire roll of toilet paper with all of the contradictory evidence of an attempted “cover-up” in this case. Brandon’s body was not the only thing that they wanted to bury. They wanted to ensure that this story never made it across the Lamar County line.

What makes this case so bizarre is that McClelland and his killers (Shannon Finley and Ryan Crostley) were acquaintances. I am reluctant to use the term “friends”. Last time I checked “friends don’t lynch friends.” Finley was convicted of manslaughter and it was Brandon who perjured himself under oath attempting to give his would-be killer an alibi. Finley shot a white male in the head 3 times, but lied claiming he was actually shooting at 3 Black males (go figure) who were trying to rob him and the deceased was hit in the crossfire. The mysterious three Black males were never found.

Finley’s attorney convinced the court that the killing was accidental and he was sentenced to only 5 years in prison for murder. According to the McClelland family, Brandon spent more time in prison for perjury than Finley spent for murder. Who was the attorney that defended Finley? It was Gary Young; the sitting Lamar County District Attorney. It is the same man who insists that Brandon’s dragging is not a hate crime, but an accident. Welcome to the Paris, Texas legal system.

Young says that because the three were “friends” this was not a hate crime. It is preposterous to insult the idea of “friendship” by even considering the use of such a word in this case. Acquaintance and friendship are two different things. If Brandon McClelland could speak for himself after being dragged to his death, do you think that he would still consider these guys his friends? Acquaintance does not exonerate racial hatred and bias from a crime. Were not the Native Americans befriended before they were slaughtered? Weren’t Black Africans befriended, before being captured and brought to America in chains 453 years ago? So, I was forced to ask myself a very real question. “Does the District Attorney’s refusal to call this a hate crime represent the normalcy of racial hatred in Paris, Texas?” Maybe bigotry and white supremacy is so socially institutionalized that it has become nearly unrecognizable.

As a native Texan, if I were to visit Alaska in 40 degree weather I would be freezing. Native Alaskans may walk past me in short pants and short-sleeved shirts. Forty degrees is no big deal to people who have historically experience “40 below zero” degree weather. Maybe the dragging death of Brandon McClelland by two white males is no big deal to law enforcement in Lamar County when compared to its lynch-filled history. Ten thousand people showed up to witness the 1893 public lynching of Henry Smith in Paris.

What does a racist have to do to“get a hate-crime in Paris?” Hang someone, perhaps?

For these reasons, and a plethora of others, myself along with the New Black Panther Party, the NAACP and other organizations are calling for the following:
(1). A federal investigation into the dragging death of Brandon McClelland
(2). A change of venue for any subsequent trials. Though Young has indicated that he may recuse himself from the case, his influence in the Lamar County D.A.’s office is still a factor that could ill-affect the case.
(3). An independent autopsy to gather forensic facts to determine exactly how Brandon McClelland died.
(4). The U.S. Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division must launch an investigation into the death of Brandon McClelland and the administration of the criminal justice system in Lamar County.
(5). Swift and speedy murder trials for Shannon Finley and Ryan Crostley.
(6). Officially declare Brandon’s death a hate crime and send a message to others who would commit such a crime against another human being, regardless of creed or color.
We, along with community members of Paris, Texas will hold a 4pm protest at the Lamar County Courthouse and a 6pm townhall meeting at Kingdom Harvest Full Gospel Church on November 17th.

It would be wise for the authorities in Paris to discontinue any effort to cover-up what happened on that fatal day that has now been called to international attention. The more they try this cover-up, the more will become uncovered concerning the bestial history of lynching in Paris, Texas.

We shall know the truth; and the truth shall bring us justice.

(Deric Muhammad is apart of the Millions More Movement Ministry of Justice and can be reached at: askbroderic.blogspot.com)