Three White men chained James Byrd Jr.’s ankles to the bumper of a 1982 Ford pickup and dragged him for three miles near Jasper, Texas on June 7, 1998. Byrd, who was alive for at least two miles, died after his body was ripped into pieces. John William King, one of three men convicted in Byrd’s death, will be executed by lethal injection on Wednesday, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
King, a White supremacist who was accused of orchestrating the attack, offered Byrd, a ride with the intention of harming him. The men reportedly beat the 49 year old before committing one of the most gruesome hate crimes in U.S. history.
His two accomplices were found guilty in connection to Byrd’s death. Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed in 2011. Shawn Allen Berry, the final participant, was sentenced to life in prison.
With King’s execution date approaching, many Jasper residents have spoken out publicly about the hate crime and the impact it’s had in the 20 years after Byrd’s death.
Japser interim Mayor Gary Gatlin said the city of Jasper has not forgotten about the devastating crime but “we’ve just tried to move on.”
Byrd’s family along with Jasper mayoral candidate Rashad Lewis expressed their feelings about how the city has moved on. “I think, quite frankly, people in Jasper are tired of talking about it. They want to forget it,” Mylinda Washington, one of Byrd’s sisters, told the AP. “It happened here, and we need to always have that in front of us.”
Lewis, a current city council member, told the AP, “As long as we keep a blindfold to the incident, we will never be able to move forward.”