Family of Marco McMillian demands federal hate crime investigation into his murder

Following the release of autopsy results of slain Mississippi mayoral candidate Marco McMillian, his family is demanding a federal investigation. McMillian was an African-American, openly gay candidate in the mayoral race for Clarksdale, Mississippi when his body was found on the Mississippi River levee.

The full autopsy has now been revealed that McMillian died from lack of oxygen. The report goes on to detail that blunt force trauma most likely contributed to the Clarksdale mayoral candidate's death, but what exactly caused the asphyxiation remains unknown. The report also notes that there were abrasions and lacerations on McMillian's head, back and legs, and multiple "areas of second and third degree burns," and that "the manner of death is homicide."

Local authorities have ruled his case a homicide, but there are conflicting reports and speculation around the motive. The Coahoma County Sheriff's Office announced that a suspect, Lawrence Reed, faces a murder charge in the death. Reed, 22, was found in McMillian's wrecked SUV. He later provided authorities with the location of the victim's body. The suspect is currently in police custody.

Immediately after his death, McMillian's family called for a hate crime investigation. Those calls are now being renewed with the full autopsy report. The family has retained the legal help of Parks & Crump, who also handled the Trayvon Martin shooting case. Yesterday, the family, Parks & Crump, and the National Black Justice Coalition held a press conference to renew their calls for a federal hate crimes investigation.

"Marco was a dedicated public servant and he was brutally murdered," says Sharon Lettman-Hicks of the National Black Justice Coalition. "He was tortured. No human being deserves to die that way."

In order to investigate McMillian's murder as a hate crime, local law enforcement will have to reach out to federal authorities, since Mississippi has no hate crime legislation protecting the LGBT community. Federal hate crime legislation, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, only applies if the local investigators have reached out to FBI and/or if the FBI decides to step in. According to a 2011 Federal Bureau of Investigation report, there has been a spike in Mississippi anti-gay and racially-motivated hate crimes.

"The conflicting reports, the current racial and anti-LGBT climate in Mississippi and the lack of state protections for LGBT individuals are justification enough for a federal investigation," says Lettman-Hicks. "NBJC is standing firmly with Marco McMillian's family so that their concerns do not fall on deaf ears. We want answers and we want them now."

If elected, McMillian would have been the first openly gay African-American man elected to office in Mississippi, which makes his murder all the more tragic. GLAAD calls on the media to follow the story of Marco McMillian's murder. Stories of African-American gay men are often underrepresented in media, including news media. This creates an incomplete picture of the LGBT community. It will also be important to bring attention to McMillian's murder to prevent violence from other members of the LGBT and African-American community.