A 32-year-old Marine suffered life-threatening injuries after he was beaten by a group of men outside of a Mississippi restaurant Sunday, having ignored a warning earlier that it wasn't safe for white people in the wake of the Michael Brown killing in Missouri, the serviceman's friend said.
Ralph Weems, an Iraq war veteran, was in fair condition at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, a hospital spokeswoman said Monday, New York Daily News reported. Although his brother-in-law alleged that Weems had undergone brain surgery, the claim was not confirmed to the Associated Press by the hospital.
The incident, which occurred early Sunday morning around 2 a.m., had up to 20 assailants involved, The Clarion-Ledger reported. With only 22-year-old Courtez McMillian of Okolona being arrested and charged with aggravated assault Monday evening, other arrests are likely to come soon, the West Point Police Department said.
Early Saturday morning, Weems and his friend got into an argument with black customers at a Waffle House in West Point, Miss., David Knighten, a friend of Weems, told the AP. When they left the restaurant, a man outside the Waffle House politely informed Weems that it wasn't safe for white people to be outside in the wake of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Brown by a Ferguson, Mo., cop earlier this month, according to Knighten, an Air Force veteran of the Afghanistan war.
Following the argument, "the pair was then followed by at least 20 African-Americans as they stopped at a Huddle House on their way to Weems' home, Knighten said. When Knighten emerged from the restroom, he said Weems was surrounded," according to NYDN. "When a security guard asked everyone to leave, Knighten said he was separated from Weems and couldn't reach him. Weems was on the ground being kicked by a group of people."
Knighten suffered broken facial bones and other injuries, he said. "All my injuries were minor fractures and lacerations," Knighten wrote on Facebook, according to the Clarion-Ledger. "I just wish I could have reached him sooner. Please keep your thoughts and prayers on Ralph."
After looking at video surveillance footage from the scene of the crime, cops have put together a list of other possible suspects, with most, if not all of the assailants being from Monroe County. "This does not appear to be a hate crime," West Point Police Chief Tim Brinkley said in a press release, according to the Clarion-Ledger. "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."
However, Brinkley said that could change. "All we do is process the evidence and turn the case over to the district attorney who in turn presents it to the grand jury," he said. "It's within their discretion to add the hate crime enhancement."