Murdered Mississippi mayoral candidate's family says death was a hate crime

On Monday, New York Magazine published an article explaining that the family of murdered Mississippi mayoral candidate Marco McMillian now believes his death was a hate crime. The family said they had received information from the Coahoma County coroner's office regarding the state of McMillian's body, which led them to believe that "this was not a random act of violence." However, the medical examiner, Scotty Meredith, told CNN that McMillian "was beaten, but not badly." He said he did not know where the family had gotten the idea that McMillian's body was burned. Meredith continued, saying, "this was not a targeted attack… this was more of a personal dispute." The autopsy won't be released for a few weeks. A day before McMillian's body was found, Lawrence Reed was found in McMillian's wrecked SUV. Reed is currently in custody.

If the Sheriff's office decides to pursue the investigation as a hate crime, they will have to reach out to the FBI, because 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.

Thirty-one states and Washington DC currently have hate crime legislation addressing hate crimes based on sexual orientation, while just twelve states and DC have hate crime legislation addressing hate crimes based on gender identity. There are five states which have no hate crime legislation at all; Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Wyoming. Mississippi has laws addressing other kinds of hate crimes, such as those based on race, but not based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This makes it much more difficult to prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also makes it more important for the media to cover these stories and raise awareness of the fact that hate crimes affect more than just their direct victims. Hate crimes tell an entire community of people that they're unsafe. This is why they need to be treated differently under the law.

In a statement released through McMillian's former campaign manager, the family demanded, "a full and thorough investigation," explaining that McMillian had told those close to him that, "he was very concerned for his personal safety."