Police in Louisiana say a 20-year-old black woman was attacked in a brutal, possibly race-related crime on Sunday night. According to the victim, Sharmeka Moffitt, three men covered her in flammable liquid and set her on fire before fleeing. Police found Moffitt with burns on over half of her body; she's currently in the hospital and listed in critical condition.
Her mother, Edna Moffitt, says surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. "Both of her arms, and they are third degree burns, down her chest and legs - one. Basically her arms are real bad."
"KKK" and and a racial slur were also burned onto Moffitt's car. And when police officers arrived on the scene, she said her attackers were wearing white hoods or hats, although she later said she wasn't able to identify the men's race. The local sheriff's department denied that Moffitt was wearing an Obama t-shirt, a fact which initial reports blamed for the attack.
"This is a horrific event for our community," says Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb. "It makes everyone uneasy. It is our hope that everyone stands together at this time, and follow the information that is gathered, follow the facts, follow the evidence and hopefully that will lead us to justice in this case."
The FBI is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
The local chapter of the NAACP condemned the attacks, but also encouraged people to withhold judgment until the investigation is complete. However, Otis Chisley, the chapter's president, did note that racism and the KKK are still an active problem in Louisiana. "It's prevalent throughout Louisiana," he said. "It's hidden but it exists."