Victim’s sister: Mobile, Ala. black-on-white beating sparked by theft, not basketball

Chuck Rudd Contributor
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The sister of a white Mobile, Alabama man who suffered severe head trauma during a beating by approximately 20 black neighbors on Saturday spoke exclusively to The Daily Caller, saying that the incident started after one of her children witnessed some of the eventual assailants stealing an item from a neighbor’s porch — not, as some media outlets have reported, following a disagreement about a pick-up basketball game in the street.

Ashley Parker, whose brother Matthew Owens is clinging to life after the assault, said Owens was attacked after her 21-year-old daughter witnessed a group of African-American youth moving from yard to yard in the neighborhood and taking something that didn’t belong to them. She told Owens, who confronted the youths.

She “saw one of them take something off a porch,” Parker said, “and that is when Matthew approached them and told them they need to go home.”

The group returned with more than a dozen others, she said, beating Owens with bats, brass knuckles, a chair, a paint can and other objects. The attack left him bloodied and unconscious.

Parker has since reinforced her account about petty theft precipitating the incident, telling the same version of events to a Facebook group that was started to support her brother.

She said she is “scared to death” and plans to move out of the neighborhood this week.

“I don’t feel safe here anymore,” she told TheDC. “My brother is being smeared. … I know how this works now. The victim always ends up the bad guy. I have lost faith in humanity because of this.”

Her children, she said, “witnessed their uncle being beaten half to death. Now my children are afraid. I will not live like this.”

She is also concerned that her home address is being distributed on Twitter.

One man, 44-year-old Terry Rawls, was arrested Wednesday and charged with first-degree assault in the case, WKRG-TV5 in Mobile reported. Deputy Police Chief Lester Hargrove said investigators now believe only four people were involved in the beating, with the rest of the group standing and watching.

In a stunning development on Tuesday, WKRG released raw footage of an African-American woman who lives on the street where the beating occurred exclaiming that Owens, not the mob, was at fault. She yelled her protest in the direction of correspondent Lauren Vargas and her cameraman as they prepared to shoot a news segment.

The woman, who did not identify herself, said that police had to be called “every weekend” because “Mr. Owens was swinging … knives out here in front of these kids.” She also alleged that he was “bipolar” and “he drinks.”

She also accused Owens of being a racist: “The kids’ ball just went up here in his yard,” she yelled, “and he started cussing, like calling them ‘niggers.’ How would you like for your kids to be called ‘niggers’ all the time?”

WKRG reported Wednesday after Rawls’ arrest that he lives in the same house as the woman who accused Owens, on-camera, of being a racist.

It was Parker who told police she heard someone in the group of her brothers’ assailants say after the attack, “Now that’s justice for Trayvon.” Media reports have identified neighbors who corroborated her statement.

The alleged comment refers to the Feb. 26 shooting of 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, Florida. Social justice activists in the black community have complained that Martin’s shooter, a Hispanic man named George Zimmerman, was given special treatment by police. Zimmerman was later arrested, charged with second-degree murder and released on a $150,000 bond.

Parker told TheDC that after Owens yelled at the group of black youths for stealing, he told them to bring their parents over so he could talk to them.

The kids brought their parents, said Parker, and then some.

Parker said she watched helplessly as her brother was beaten. Owens, who lives across the street from Parker, had spent the day helping her with yard work.

Matthew’s brother, Lloyd Owens, told radio host Todd Schnitt on Tuesday that “15 to 20 people” came to the house to participate in the assault.

Later, in the hospital, he said, Matthew told him, “Don’t let me die.”

“He’s got 12 to, I think, 20 staples in his head,” Lloyd said. “And he has bleeding on the brain on both sides.”

Matthew is listed in fair condition, upgraded from critical, at the University of South Alabama Medical Center.

Parker expressed frustration that some media outlets have reported that her brother, a mechanic by trade, has a rap sheet.  “My brother is being smeared by some people and now bringing his criminal history to light to make him the criminal,” she said.

Fox News has reported that Owens has previous arrests for domestic assault, DUI and public intoxication.

A spokeswoman for the Mobile Police Department told Fox News that the attack is being investigated as an assault — not a hate crime.  But Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich told WKRG that her office has met with federal law enforcement and will ultimately let them decide.

Two other recent reports, in Chicago and Toledo, Ohio, involved  African-Americans allegedly citing the Trayvon Martin case while attacking whites.

But Mobile Police Corporal Chris Levy told reporters that even if Martin’s name was mentioned, his death wasn’t the reason the attack occurred.

“I’m 100 percent certain that Trayvon Martin is not a motivating factor in this incident,” he said.

Update, April 26, 4:55 p.m.: Ashley Parker emailed The Daily Caller on Thursday to re-emphasize her view of what caused her brother’s beating. “It wasn’t the ball playing,” she wrote. “It was them stealing that made him confront them.”

Update, April 26, 5:15 p.m.: Corporal Chris Levy of the Mobile Police Department told The Daily Caller that this story was the first he had heard of Parker’s allegation. “We have interviewed Mrs. Parker, we have interviewed Matthew Owens, we have interviewed every person on that street,” Levy said, “and nobody has told us that. … This is why we urge people to come forward with any information they have on these cases.”

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Chuck Rudd