- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A witness says that the attack on a 32-year-old veteran outside a Mississippi Huddle House may have been racially motivated.

Ralph Weems, a 32-year-old Marine and Iraq war veteran, was in fair condition Monday, recovering in a Tupelo hospital after he was badly beaten, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

Mr. Weems and his friend David Knighten, an Air Force veteran, went to a Waffle House in West Point early Saturday. Mr. Knighten told the Associated Press that a man warned him politely outside the restaurant that it wasn’t a safe place for whites, because people were upset by the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Mr. Knighten said when he entered the restaurant, Mr. Weems was arguing with people inside. The two men left and stopped at a Huddle House restaurant with an empty parking lot. They were followed there by around 20 people, who then attacked them, he said.

“I do remember racial slurs being yelled from the crowd,” he told the AP.

Mr. Knighten said he remembers seeing Mr. Weems lying on the ground and getting kicked. Witnesses told police that the group was made up of black men, but couldn’t identify any of them, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

“All my injuries were minor fractures and lacerations. I just wish I could have reached him sooner. Please keep your thoughts and prayers on Ralph,” Mr. Knighten wrote in a Facebook post Saturday, according to The Clarion-Ledger.

Courtez McMillian, 22, of Okolona has been charged with aggravated assault. Investigators are reviewing video footage and have compiled a list of other possible suspects from a nearby county, AP reported.

Police Chief Tim Brinkley said in a release that the attack right now is being investigated as aggravated assault.

“This does not appear to be a hate crime,” he said, AP reported. “It’s very early in this investigation but thus far the evidence and statements suggest that a verbal altercation turned physical and somebody got hurt.”

Chief Brinkley told AP that surveillance video and witness accounts indicate far fewer than 20 people were involved and watching the attack.

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