The beatings of three people in a Kroger parking lot Saturday night will not be investigated as a hate crime, according to police officials.
Memphis Police Department director Toney Armstrong said he’s had lots of calls asking how the investigation would proceed but said there is “not sufficient enough evidence to investigate this as a hate crime.”
“I know this has a lot of racial undertones,” Armstrong said during a news conference Monday at Memphis City Hall. “I’ve gotten a lot of calls and I know (Memphis Mayor A C Wharton) has as well. We acknowledge that the majority of the suspects and the majority of the juveniles involved in this were African Americans. But you have to also understand that there was an African American victim in this as well, as well as a non-African American male.”
Armstrong said one 15-year-old suspect has been charged for aggravated assault and aggravated rioting. The suspect also has previous drug and firearm charges. He is not enrolled in school this year and his mother has been charged in the past with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, Armstrong said.
Charges on three other suspects were pending but expected Monday, Armstrong said.
“I am pleased to say that the three young men are in custody because two parents did the right thing,” Armstrong said. "Two parents contacted us and notified us because they felt their kids had taken part in this.”
Wharton said he’d talked with the business owners around the shopping center at Highland and Poplar and would be soon talking with the victims.
“Again, for those who were wondering why this case is getting so much attention, and I think everybody understands and properly so, that it is just so reprehensible that it damages our community and not to mention the harm done to the victims,” Wharton said. “It cast the city in horribly bad light. We want to make clear that we’re not going to tolerate it.”