NAACP leaders charge racial motivation, ask for patience

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Mar. 8, 2007 - Leaders of the Hopkins County NAACP chapter promised there would be a full and thorough investigation into Wednesday’s assault, and said the facts will show that the incident was racially motivated.

About 65 people attended the 8:30 p.m. Wednesday meeting called by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at the Cypress Baptist Center on Como Street.

Lester Henley set the tone with an opening prayer.

"We are gathered in a spirit of love ... not for a difference of opinion," Henley said. "This is not about being biased — this is about the truth."

Dr. M. LaVelle Hendricks, president of the local NAACP chapter and pastor of East Caney Missionary Baptist Church, put the victim, Chris Wright, at the forefront.

"First and foremost, let's keep Chris in our thoughts and prayers," Hendricks said.

He said Wright's father, Sigmund Wright, had told him his son had been through several hours of surgery. He had sustained massive facial lacerations and had "problems with his hands" but was in stable condition.

Hendricks went on to say that the NAACP was actively working with District Attorney Martin Braddy, Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jim Bayuk and Mayor Freddie Taylor.

"Let me dispel any rumors — the NAACP will not allow anything of this nature to be swept under the rug," Hendricks told the crowd.

He added that when all the facts are collected, "The information will be readily available to see that this was race-motivated," Hendricks said.

He also asked for patience.

"We are not seeking a rush to judgment," he said.

Sulphur Springs Mayor Freddie Taylor, who is treasurer of the Sulphur Springs NAACP, also gave condolences to the victim and his family.

"Things like this should never happen. I apologize that this happened in our city, but it did," Taylor said.

He said there have been problems in the past with law enforcement, but "I'm asking us to put our trust in the system," and urged peple "to get involved, to ask questions, but let the DA do his job to the fullest."

"We're going to do things decent and orderly," Taylor said. "We don't want any more tragedies."

District Attorney Martin Braddy said his office handles "tragic situations" every day, but this one was different.

"This is one of special priority for us," he said. "We are not going to stop until we get to the bottom of all of this."

He declined to delve deeply into the facts and circumstances of the case — "We don't want to jeopardize the investigation" — but added, "For the public to have trust, they need to understand what we're doing and why were doing it."

Braddy said what they do know is that Chris Wright was with his girlfriend, a bartender at the Bright Star Lounge at Days Inn, when Wright and Judson Weaver got into a verbal altercation. Weaver was asked to leave, but when Wright and his girlfriend went into the parking lot after closing, the two men got into another verbal altercation. Wright went to Weaver, who was in a pickup, and when Weaver accelerated, Wright was still attached. He fell from the vehicle while it was still moving.

"There are still a lot of unanswered questions," he said. "There are still a lot of people with information out there."

He reiterated that investigators don't want to discuss the facts in detail, lest they taint the testimony of potential witnesses.

Braddy also said his office is not taking allegations of a race-based attack lightly.

"We will look into the possibility of if this was racially motivated," he said, but added, "That very much has not been concluded."

"It this was based on race, it will be dealt with severely. Even if it's not, it will still be dealt with severely. This is in no way, shape or form a minor case," Braddy concluded.

Hendricks, who said he had also been praying for the accused, again urged the people in attendance to not listen to gossip about the case.

"Don't look at this myopically," Hendricks said. "Don't believe all the innuendo and the hype you hear. If you want to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, you will hear it here."

The Rev. Harold B. Nash, pastor of Morning Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, closed the meeting with a final prayer.

"We need to pray for the individuals involved .. both the suspect and the victim," he said.

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