Editor’s Note: Just as this story went to press, news broke that police now believe the story of three men attacking the victim — who was seriously burned — were fabricated. See update below.
Sharmeka Moffitt, a 20-year old Black woman in Louisiana was set on fire by three men wearing white hoods Sunday night. The men also scrawled “KKK” onto her car along with a racial slur, and left her in critical condition with third degree burns on 60% of her body. The FBI is investigating and may label the attack a hate crime. “Moffitt told police the men doused her in a flammable liquid and set her on fire at a park in Winnsboro, a town in Franklin Parish,” CBS reports:
Officers found the letters KKK – an apparent reference to the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan – and a racial slur smeared in a paste-like substance on the hood of her car, [Louisiana State Police spokeswoman Lt. Julie] Lewis said. On the emergency call, Moffitt described her attackers as three men wearing white hoods or hats, Lewis said. She later told a Winnsboro Police officer who responded to the call that the men were wearing white hoodies. She was unable to say what race her attackers were. The officer found no suspects or vehicles at Civitan Park where the attack allegedly happened, and the park has no surveillance cameras, Lewis said. She said the state crime lab was analyzing several pieces of evidence.
Moffitt, who was to undergo surgery today at the Regional Burn Center at LSU Medical Center in Shreveport, has told police she could not identify her attackers. “I want justice and I want them to pay for what they did to my baby. Because they should not have done that to her and I want them to feel the pain that she’s feeling now,” her mother, Edna Moffitt told reporters, according to local station KSLA:
Moffitt told police the men doused her in a flammable liquid and set her on fire. Lewis said she extinguished the fire using water from a nearby spigot before a police officer arrived. “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.” He went on to tell KSLA News 12 that they have no information to lead them directly to any individual suspects at this point, but he says they are following all avenues. A candlelight vigil has also been planned for Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Civitan Park. This story went viral Sunday evening on Twitter and Facebook. Many of the posts speculated the attack was a hate crime. However, the sheriff’s office has confirmed with KSLA News 12 that Moffitt was not wearing a President Obama t-shirt, despite claims on social media that the t-shirt is what provoked the attack. Edna Moffitt also confirms her daughter was not wearing an Obama t-shirt, as initial rumors on social media had indicated.
The Huffington Post adds:
Police currently have no suspects or motives in the attack, which occurred while Moffitt was walking on a paved trail in Civitan Park on Sunday at about 8 p.m., according to The News Star. Authorities do not know if the attack was planned or random but called the racial connotations “unsettling.” “My hope is we’ll all stand together while we determine the facts,” Cobb told The News Star. “I’m asking the community to trust us to do the right thing.” The attack on Moffitt caught the nation’s attention after a Facebook page, entitled,“Prayers for Sharmeka Moffitt,” was created. The page currently has more than 30,000 likes.
“Franklin Parish officials are reporting Sharmeka Moffitt’s claims that she was attacked and set on fire are false,” KNOE reports, adding, “KNOE’s newspaper partner The Franklin Sun are reporting evidence from the State Police Crime Lab show Moffitt’s fingerprints were on both the cigarette lighter and lighter fluid found near the scene at Civitan Park.”
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