Protesters vowed Monday to get the U.S. Department of Justice to review the dismissal of state murder charges against two white men in the dragging death of a black friend.
About 150 people attended a rally outside a Texas courthouse, including members of the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party. Some carried signs that read “Where is the Justice for Brandon?” and expressed anger over what they call a pattern of unequal justice for whites and blacks in Paris, about 90 miles northeast of Dallas.
“A black man’s life is still not worth a white man’s life in Paris, Texas,” said activist Anthony Bond.
Words flew between protesters and a self-described Ku Klux Klansman but there were no arrests.
The protest was organized last week after special prosecutor Toby Shook, citing a lack of evidence, had charges dismissed against Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley, who were accused of killing their friend Brandon McClelland. His mangled body was found Sept. 16 on a country road, and authorities say he’d been dragged more than 70 feet beneath a vehicle.
The two men, who maintain their innocence, were released Thursday with no restrictions after more than eight months in jail.
Authorities had arrested Finley and Crostley, working on the theory that the trio went on a late night beer run into Oklahoma from their dry county. On the way back, authorities alleged, the men argued over whether Finley was too drunk to drive. McClelland got out of the truck to walk home, and Finley ran over him.
But investigators working for the defendants’ attorneys located a gravel truck driver who last month gave a sworn statement acknowledging he might have accidentally run over McClelland. Shook said it was unlikely the trucker would face charges, but that the investigation into McClelland’s death would continue.
The racial implications recalled the murder of James Byrd, a black man who was chained by his ankles to a pickup by three white men and dragged to death in 1998 in the East Texas town of Jasper. Two of the killers are on death row, and the third is serving life in prison.