Hit and Run a Hate Crime? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Hit and Run a Hate Crime?

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Memphis, TN -

The family members of Johnny Butts say his murder was a hate crime. The 61-year-old black man was killed in a hit and run early Sunday morning. Now, a white teenage driver faces charges, including murder. But, the family says that's not enough.

"Why, why would they do that? That's my question," says the victim's sister Patricia Jones.

Butts was walking along Highway 310 East Sunday morning, when he was struck by a car with three white male teenagers inside.  They left him for dead.

Another of the victim's sisters, Linda Jefferson, says, "The car came from the other side and came over in the grass and hit my brother, that's sad, that couldn't be nothing but a hate crime, malicious, hate crime."

The Panola County Sheriff's Office says the driver, 17-year-old Matthew Darby, faces murder charges.  They say he intended to kill, since he swerved across the road to hit butts from behind.

"He was a great dad, loved him to death, great man," says the victim's son Donny Butts.

Butts was a retired truck driver, who survived a train accident and cancer.  He started walking the same route everyday, to lose weight after the cancer treatment.

We spoke with Sheriff Darby on the phone. He says they've ruled out any possibility this could be a hate crime. He says Johnny Butts skin was covered up early that morning. He says Butts was wearing a long sleeve jacket and a hat. All three teenagers also said they couldn't see Butts' skin color. But Johnny Butts family says you wouldn't wear long sleeves in this heat.

"Ooh that scares me cause they use that lame excuse as to why they not gonna call it a hate crime, it wasn't right," says Jefferson.

The Sheriff's Office says they're waiting on blood alcohol tests from the teenagers.  Meanwhile, the family says they plan to investigate the case for themselves.

According to reports, Sheriff Darby is no relation to the accused.

The accused murderer, Matthew Darby, and the 15-year-old with him, each face charges for the burglary of a church.

The Sheriff's Office says the 18-year-old who stayed inside the car does not face any charges.

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