The white Mississippi teens caught on surveillance video beating a black man, then killing him by running him over with a pickup truck may be responsible for other attacks on homeless black men in the area, the head of the state's NAACP told ABCNews.com.
James Anderson, an auto worker, was killed June 26 in Jackson, Miss. His murder received renewed attention when the grisly surveillance video surfaced this week.
The video allegedly shows Deryl Dedmon, 18, and several of his friends beating Anderson, and then driving over his body. Dedmon, who is accused of driving the pickup truck that lurched over Anderson's body in the video, is in jail on $800,000 bond awaiting a grand jury investigation into Anderson's homicide.
Dedmon's friend, John Rice, who was at the scene during the beating, had originally been charged with murder. But during a preliminary hearing detectives testified Rice, who is also 18, left the parking lot before Anderson got run over.
Rice's charge was lowered to simple assault and will be sent to the grand jury along with Dedmon's. In the meantime, Rice was released on $5,000 bail.
The teens charged have not yet entered a plea. Neither Dedmon nor Rice's lawyer returned a call from ABCNews.com.
Prosecutors are trying to determine if the other teens involved in the incident should also be charged.
The attack on Anderson may have been the latest assault on blacks in the area, Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, told ABCNews.com. He said evidence indicates the white teenagers deliberately "set out to go and mess with African Americans."
Johnson said that sources who wished to remain anonymous said the teens "had, as a practice, targeted African Americans in the city of Jackson who were homeless." He's now working to verify the legitimacy of those claims.
Jackson police spokeswoman Colendula Green said detectives had received a call from "one person" saying that "white people" were beating up on homeless African Americans. They looked into it, she said, and couldn't substantiate the claims.
For now, she said, "it's hearsay," and the alleged incident reported to police happened "three or four years ago."
Video: Teens Run Over James Anderson
The surveillance video shows Anderson, 49, in the parking lot of the Metro Inn in Jackson. A group of white teens who had driven in from adjacent Rankin County in a white SUV and green pickup truck, descend on Anderson, beating him, walking back and forth between him and their cars. One can be seen pumping his fist in the air.
The teens in the white SUV drive off, leaving Anderson on the ground. That's when Dedmon, a thin blonde driving the green pickup truck, allegedly accelerates toward Anderson.
Anderson, who appears to be stumbling toward the street on the curb, disappears underneath Dedmon's car. Dedmon and his two teenage female passengers –- who were not charged -- then allegedly drove to a McDonalds to meet up with their friends.
"I ran that n****r over," Dedmon reportedly said in a phone conversation to the teens in the other car.
Metro Inn general manager Val Patel told ABC News affiliate WAPT Dedmon, "rolled the window down and laughed and danced" and took off toward the interstate.
Anderson was pronounced dead at a hospital.
"We're all shocked by the allegations. It's uncomfortable, I'm sure, for all of us to know this can happen to a random citizen," Hinds County District Attorney Robert Schuler Smith said. "There were racial slurs used throughout the turn of events which led to the conclusion that it was most likely a hate crime."
Racial Attack Suspect Deryl Dedmon
Dedmon has had a previous run-in with the law. In March, he was arrested in his hometown of Brandon, Miss., and found guilty of making harassing phone calls. He paid an undisclosed fine. Police would not say who he called.
And last month, Brian Richardson, a white Baptist pastor in Dedmon's hometown told reporters Dedmon had bullied his son from September 2008 to 2010 while they were in high school together.
"I thought it was obviously painfully clear that Deryl was going to injure someone severely or possibly kill someone," Richardson said. "And I believe that if he doesn't get some help, if he is not taken off the streets, that it's going to happen again."
Richardson's family called Brandon police in 2009, he said, after it looked as though there would be a physical altercation.
The minister is cooperating with the lawyer representing Anderson's family in a wrongful death lawsuit.
The lawyer representing Anderson's family did not respond to calls from ABCNews.com.
Racial Tension in Mississippi
Some of the racial tension in the area stems from the racial disparity between Brandon, Miss., which is 90 percent white, and the town of Jackson in Hinds County, which is 70 percent African-American, according to Johnson.
Brandon, located in Rankin County, is often referred to as "the white flight county from Jackson," said Johnson.
There has been a "huge increase over last 20 years of working class or poor whites in Rankin County," he added. "With that created a lot of tensions because when you have individuals who are not neighbors, don't know each other, and carry the baggage of racism, you develop a culture of racial hatred."
Johnson says they've gotten a "slew of calls" asking if they will organize a demonstration. But they, like prosecutor Smith, are being cautious.
"We decided to allow the investigation to mature and at that time respond based on the information that is released," Johnson said, adding he has great confidence in Smith, saying he's "very thorough."
"It's really easy for people to come and sensationalize it, or for individuals to demagogue the issue. We're trying to make sure at the end of the day that justice is brought," Johnson said.