Mississippi police are investigating a reported aggravated assault at a West Point restaurant that resulted in one man’s life-threatening injuries Saturday.
Ralph Weems IV, a 32-year-old marine who served in Iraq, was reportedly in fair condition at the North Mississippi Medical Center Sunday, though one of his relatives said he was in a medically induced coma, according to nola.com.
"They're going to try and wake him up tomorrow and see what damage was done," relative Bradley Barnes told the Associated Press.
Genie Causey, a hospital spokeswoman, reportedly declined to comment further on Weems’ condition.
Ralph Weems IV
David Knighten, Weems’ friend, said he was with Weems at the time of the alleged attack. The two reportedly went to a Waffle House together earlier in the evening, where Weems got into a fight with other men. Knighten said that he was warned by a man outside the restaurant that he should not go in because he was white, and locals were angry about the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
The incident in Ferguson spurred riots and protests in the town and the ongoing conflict has received national attention. Despite the warning, police said they are not sure if the attack could be considered more than an assault.
"This does not appear to be a hate crime," said Police Chief Tim Brinkley in a press release. "We are investigating this as an aggravated assault. 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."
The argument Weems engaged in ultimately brought police to the restaurant at about 1 a.m., according to a press release reported by WCBI-TV.
Weems and Knighten then left the scene and went to another restaurant, Huddle House, before they headed home. Knighten said he thinks they were followed by about 20 people, who allegedly surrounded and attacked Knighten after a security guard tried to kick everyone out of the restaurant.
Knighten said he was also injured and suffered broken facial bones and cuts in the allegedly racially charged fight.
"I do remember racial slurs being yelled from the crowd," he said.
Police were called but did not arrive until after Knighten had sustained serious injuries and the crowd left.
Courtez McMillian, 22, was arrested on Monday evening. He is currently being held in the Clay County Detention Center and will be charged with aggravated assault in connection with this incident.
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