Magazine article Newsweek

A Fatal Ride in the Night

Magazine article Newsweek

A Fatal Ride in the Night

Article excerpt

A Texas man is dragged to death behind a pickup JAMES BYRD JR.'S TORSO WAS FOUND first. When police in Jasper, Texas. went out to Huff Creek Road last Sunday morning to check out reports of a dead body, they turned up the badly mutilated remains of the 49-year-old black man- and a trail of blood. Deputies followed the dark red stains for a mile and found Byrd's head. Then his right arm. Another mile, and they found tennis shoes, a wallet, even his dentures. And then the trail ended, at a churned-up patch of grass strewn with empty beer bottles, a lighter bearing white supremacist symbols and a wrench set inscribed with the name "Berry." Later that day, a witness told police he'd seen Byrd in the back of a gray pickup around 2:30 am. The small east Texas city has just 8,000 residents, so an investigator quickly realized that Shawn Berry, 23, drove a gray Ford truck. When they hauled him in on outstanding traffic warrants, Berry started talking. According to a police affidavit, he told the following story: he'd been driving around with high-school buddy James (Bill) King, 23, and Sulphur Springs resident Lawrence Brewer, 31, and had offered Byrd a ride. As the black man clambered in the back, King became enraged. "You don't need to be picking up a ing n--," he said. King took the wheel and drove to the clearing, where he and Brewer beat Byrd severely (Berry later said he tried to stop them). Then Byrd was chained to the truck by his ankles and dragged to death. …

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