The human rights violation I'm featuring today is the case of Brandon McClelland, which has been all over the news the last few weeks. Brother Jesse of The Final Call has weighed in. Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune has thrown in his two cents. Even the Associated Press is on the story by now. And I first read about it thanks to Sokari over at Black Looks emanating all the way from South Africa.
The story unfolded in Paris, Texas, (why am I not surprised?) and is a LOT messier than some, but still clearly marked by indicators that the crime in question was committed the way it was committed because of the skin tone of the victim. Further, the way it's being persued by law enforcement officials has all the overtones at this point of a racist cover-up.
The backstory (where most of the messiness occurs) is that long-time criminal Shannon Finley, who is a European-American (that's "White" for those of you new to my blog), killed one of his "friends" five years ago, getting off with a manslaughter conviction because he shot the guy three times in the head by accident...? Uh-huh! (Oh, those Texans!) The conviction resulted in a four-year bit in prison.
During the trial, Brandon McClelland, an African-American who was just a teenager at the time and another "friend" of Finley's, originally testified under oath that Finley was with him when the killing occurred, but since that turned out to be a lie, he wound up doing two years in prison for perjury. Sound funny? It does to me. I mean, I'm wondering why this kid would be willing to lie on the stand for a guy with a long record who just shot somebody in the head three times. You wonder, too? I would guess so.
Anyway, time passed, the two men were released and life went on. Then, in the wee hours of September 16th, after Finley, McClelland, and another man named Charles Ryan Crostley made a late night beer run to Oklahoma, McClelland somehow wound up on foot on the road in front of the truck Finley was driving. The short form is that (again) somehow, McClelland ended up under the truck and dragged as much as 70 feet, a process that dismembered and mutilated his body. Finley and Crostley then left the body parts in the road and proceeded to a carwash where they attempted to clean McClelland's blood and brains from the truck before they went home to sleep it off.
When the crime was reported, law enforcement officers called it a "hit and run by an unknown driver," but since the three had been seen together and since the underbelly of the truck still bore the evidence of McClelland's dna, Finley and Crostley were eventually arrested. It is still unclear what the actual charge will be. Family members, the New Black Panther Party, and the Nation of Islam are calling for the incident's designation as a hate crime. But thanks to the history of the men and the history of the area, this may or may not occur.
You see, Paris, Texas, was the location of last year's hot story about Shaquanda Cotton, the 14-year-old African-American girl who was sentenced to seven years in a juvenile prison for pushing a hall monitor at her school while a 14-year-old European-American girl was given probation for purposely setting the fire that burned down her parents' house. And here we are, back in Paris again just a year later, so despite their assurances that this is NOT a cover-up, one would be, I assume, forgiven for wondering.
Supposedly, investigators are looking for any sign on what's left of Brandon McClelland's body that he was tied to the truck, the way James Byrd, Jr., was ten years ago in Jasper, Texas, just two hundred miles south of Paris. But, as one community activist put it, "What's the difference between dragging behind a truck or dragging under it?" Besides, though Finley admits that McClelland was "walking" in front of the truck and told someone else he "bumped" McClelland a few times before the man went down, I can't believe a Black man, however drunk, would "walk" casually down a road in front of two White guys in a truck -- especially in Texas.
Additionally, there is considerable discussion related to Finley's palling around with White Supremacists while he was in prison. And rumor has it, as well, that Finley took a dim view of McClelland's recent interest in a European-American woman.
There will unquestionably be much more to read about this story in coming weeks and months. Because Brandon McClelland is asking, "Am I not human?"