Gay Mississippi Politician Was Beaten, Set On Fire, Says Family
New reports from the coroner show that a rising political star in Mississippi was “beaten” and “burned” as he was “brutally murdered,” according to his family. Marco McMillian, a declared candidate for mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi, was found dead along the Mississippi River levee last week.
The family also relayed that McMillian was “dragged.” A spokesman for the coroner clarified that he was dragged from the vehicle to a dumping spot, not dragged behind the vehicle.
Authorities searched for and discovered the body after another man crashed McMillian’s SUV. Lawrence Reed, 22, was driving the vehicle, and has been charged with McMillian’s murder.
McMillian was believed to be one of the first openly gay political candidates, and certainly one of the first viable ones, in the entire state.
The Clarion-Ledger newspaper (Jackson, MS, owned by Gannett Co.) reports that McMillian’s family wants the homicide to be investigated as a hate crime, but that the local sherriff’s department has declined. Mississippi hate crime legislation does not cover crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.
Even if it did, the current state laws do not create separate charges for hate crimes, but rather provide enhanced penalties if crimes are committed due to ”race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, national origin or gender of the victim.”
The Clarion-Ledger notes that the local authorities can ask for federal help to pursue federal hate crime charges, but have not done so.
During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the Mississippi murder of three civil rights activists was tried as a federal civil rights cases after state officials refused to charge the suspects. In the current case, the local authorities have already charged the suspect, but it remains to be seen if they will have the evidence, means, or desire to pursue hate crime charges.
Reed’s motives are still unclear, and authorities have not commented.