NAACP: Hispanic murders were not hate crimes - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

NAACP: Hispanic murders were not hate crimes

October 18, 2005

Tifton- The Tift County NAACP President says blacks and Hispanics in the community have joined hands after tragedies. A Hispanic Church leader agrees people in their community are not looking for revenge.

Since the murders of six Mexican immigrants in home invasions, and the killing of a black bouncer at a Latino bar, worries about racial tensions were high.

But the NAACP President says these were criminal acts, but not hate crimes.

Tift County NAACP President Patricia Melton said rumors of racial tension need to be stopped. "To the nation, that this was not a racial incident. As far as the Mexicans and the blacks, we get along good."

Melton said she has been interviewed by Justice Department Officials, looking into the Tift County murders. "We assured them, no it wasn't racial, neither was it a hate crime."

Six Hispanic men were killed September 30th in three home invasions in Tift Counties. Three black men and a black woman were charged with murder.

The NAACP President says she believes the victims and killers were involved. "There were no forced entries, so they had to let them in. So that's we believe it was something else. Something more criminal."

A week later a black bouncer at a Latino bar was killed, in what some thought was a revenge killing. But a Hispanic Church leader says that's not true. Our Divine Saviour Catholic Church song leader Francisco Agostini said "it was in a bar, people were drinking. Probably an argument."

Melton blames the media for rumors of racial tensions, and said she had to come forward to stop those rumors. "The word was out that the Hispanics had said they were going to kill five more blacks to equal up to that. So all that was just a lie and rumor."

The NAACP and Hispanic community leaders have met twice to talk about the murders, and will hold another meeting October 30th at the Welcome Center on Main Street.

Agostini said "What happened September 30th is not going to dark that relationship we have had for years."

Four blacks are charged with the murders of the six Hispanic men in the three home invasions. There have been no arrests in the death of Bobby Lee Scott, the bouncer at the Santos Lounge.

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