Jasper-style lynching in Paris, Texas

NEWS BULLETIN: A Rally Against Hate in Paris, Texas, Demanding Justice for the family of Brandon McClelland has been announced by the Millions More Movement in Houston. Two events are scheduled for Monday, Nov. 17: 1) Massive Rally at Lamar County Courthouse, 119 North Main St., Paris, at 4 p.m. and 2) Town Hall Meeting at New Birth Baptist Church, 2505 Campbell St., Paris, at 6 p.m. Call (469) 321-2704 or (713) 534-4021 for more information. And watch the video “Jacqueline McClelland on Dragging Death in Paris, Texas.”

by Jesse Muhammad

On Saturday, Oct. 4, I received a serious phone call from Krystal Muhammad of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) in regards to a possible dragging death in Paris, Texas, which is located about five hours north of Houston. The first thing that immediately came to my mind was that 2008 is the 10th anniversary of the lynching of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas. Liken unto that case, the victim in Paris was said to be a 24-year-old Black man and his killers were two White men.

I immediately Googled the town and saw that there was only a handful of media outlets that had covered the story, which involved Brandon McClelland and these two White males. One reason possibly that there was hardly any coverage was that this killing took place on Sept. 16, which was the tail end of Hurricane Ike hitting landfall, so I am sure the town officials were hoping this would be swept under the rug. Too bad, because the Final Call is on top of it!

Sister Krystal told me that members of the NBPP Dallas Chapter were on the ground already to meet with the family. So myself, Sister Krystal and my older brother Deric Muhammad hit the road on Sunday, Oct. 5, to do some on-the-ground work to see what really happened.

After a five hour drive, we arrived in the ‘hood of Paris. We then caravanned over to the home of the McClelland family, where Brandon’s mother sat on the porch with tears in her eyes. Jacqueline McClelland and her family gave recorded statements to me for my Final Call story as well as the NBPP for an independent investigation.

We were also joined by local activists, a head of the state NAACP chapter and other friends of the family.

After hearing their accounts, it was verified that her son was dragged under a pickup truck by these two White males and his body was dismembered. Jasper all over again. Afterwards we drove over to the grave site.

We then went to the scene of the crime in Lamar County. You would not believe that parts of Brandon McClelland’s skull were still out there on the ground! Shows how much the police cared. It was like an episode of CSI:NY with blood tracks up and down the road and tire marks chased by the blood trails. This was one of the most painful stories I have had to cover in person.

“They tied my son to that truck and drugged him until his body parts were detached,” said his mother Jacqueline McClelland to the Final Call. “His body was so destroyed that it could not even be embalmed by the funeral home. This is a hate crime. I don’t want the death penalty for these killers because that would be too quick. I want them to suffer for life in jail without parole since I will never have my son back.”

Jesse Muhammad is a motivational speaker, a staff writer for the Final Call newspaper, known for his coverage of the Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina survivors, and the co-founder and senior editor of For Youth Teens and Young Adults (FYTYA), Houston’s largest youth and college paper. Email him at jesse.muhammad@gmail.com and visit Brother Jesse Blog at http://jessemuhammad.blogspot.com, where this story first appeared. To hear Jesse discuss this lynching, go to www.blogtalkradio.com and search for Jesse Muhammad.

‘Was his death a hate crime?’ asks Chicago Tribune

In an Oct. 5 story in the Chicago Tribune, the only mainstream newspaper to cover this lynching so far except for a brief story Oct. 1 in the Dallas Morning News, Howard Witt reports that Paris police initially reported Brandon McClelland’s death as a hit and run until they looked at the undercarriage of a truck belonging to Shannon Finley, 27. He and a friend, Charles Ryan Crostley, 27, now the suspects in the case, have white supremacist ties, according to the McClelland family and local civil rights leaders. Police continue to deny the lynching was racially motivated.

Witt reports that the two men “allegedly ran (Brandon) down and then dragged him 40 feet along the road until his mutilated body popped out from beneath the chassis, according to a police affidavit accompanying the warrant for Finley’s arrest.

“‘If you take somebody out to the country like that in the middle of the night and do that to him in that way, that’s how they do black people around here,’ said Brenda Cherry, a local activist working with McClelland’s family. ‘To me, it smells like Jasper.’

“Paris’ race relations came under withering national scrutiny last year after the Tribune reported the case of Shaquanda Cotton, a 14-year-old African-American girl who was sentenced by a local judge to up to seven years in a youth prison for shoving a hall monitor at her high school. Just three months earlier, the same judge had sentenced a 14-year-old white girl to probation after convicting her of the more serious crime of arson for burning down her family’s house.

“The discrepancy in the treatment of the two teenagers provoked protests from national civil rights groups and led to Cotton’s early release from prison.

“Now McClelland’s family fears that Paris officials, eager to protect their city of 26,000 from another round of negative publicity over race relations, are purposely downplaying possible racial overtones in McClelland’s murder.

“‘At the crime scene, it looked like these boys went back and poured beer on my son’s body,’ said Jacqueline McClelland, Brandon’s mother. ‘Two beer cans were lying out there, but the police didn’t even pick them up, they just left evidence out there. They won’t even consider the racial issues. That’s the way it is in Paris.'”

Read the entire story at www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-paris_wittoct05,0,6252776.story.