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Miss. rep. asks FBI to review candidate's death

 

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson

 

 

Emily Wagster Pettus and Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Press

 

JACKSON -- A Mississippi congressman on Tuesday asked the FBI to review the slaying of an openly gay mayoral candidate to determine if any federal laws might have been violated. 

 

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson's district includes Clarksdale, where Marco McMillian was running. McMillian, 34, was found slain last week in a rural area nearby. 

 

Thompson, a Democrat, said Tuesday that he has confidence in the sheriff investigating the death but that he wants the FBI to get involved because that's what McMillian's family wants. 

 

"If another set of eyes looking at it would provide additional information, I think it would be helpful to the McMillian family," Thompson told The Associated Press in a phone interview. 

 

An FBI spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment after hours. 

 

McMillian's campaign had said he was one of the first openly gay, viable candidates for public office in Mississippi. 

 

Coahoma County sheriff's spokesman Will Rooker said the investigation continues and authorities are looking at all possibilities, including whether hate crime laws would apply. 

 

Mississippi's hate crimes law covers acts motivated by bias against a victim's race but not sexual orientation. However, a federal hate crimes law covers bias against sexual orientation. Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the FBI could determine if a hate crimes charge should be considered. 

 

McMillian was black, as is the man charged last week with murder in the case, Lawrence Reed, 22. 

 

The cause of death has not been released. An autopsy was performed, but toxicology tests are pending, and authorities say it could take two weeks to get those results. 

 

In a news release, Thompson said: "The level of violence shown in this incident is unconscionable and the perpetrator of this atrocious act should be held accountable to the full extent of the law." 

 

McMillian's godfather, Carter Womack, said the Coahoma County coroner told family members that someone dragged McMillian's body under a fence and left it near a Mississippi River levee.

 

 

 

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