Friends of Southaven Waffle House shooting victim say the incident was a hate crime

Friends say transgender woman was targeted

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (WMC) - WMC Action News 5 has learned new information about an early Friday morning shooting at the Waffle House in Southaven that could lead to the case being treated as a hate crime.

Friends of the 22-year-old victim say she walked into the Southaven Waffle House and was verbally abused by a stranger, simply because she’s a transgender woman.

Southaven Police confirm an argument followed and that when the victim tried to walk away, the suspect shot her.

"She was shot in her leg, both of her legs. And the bullets went through her leg and broke her femur," said the victim's friend. "She's gonna be okay. She's got to have surgery. She's gonna get a rod and a plate put in her leg."

Southaven Police arrested 23-year-old Jimtarius Hampton of Memphis and charged him with aggravated assault.

The victim and her friends say he should be charged with a hate crime.

"SPD will consult with the district attorney's office next week for a recommendation," said Captain Mark Little.

If it is deemed a hate crime, the Feds may join the case.

Mississippi's state hate crime law doesn't include protection for sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Also, Mississippi police and sheriff departments aren't required to report hate crimes to the FBI.

The 2015 murder of Mercedes Williamson, a 17-year-old transgender woman was never reported.

The 2016 murder of transgender woman Dee Whigham also wasn't prosecuted as a hate crime. She was killed by a man who admitted he lost it when he found out she wasn't born a woman.

A recent opinion piece in the Clarion Ledger says "Enough is Enough: update Mississippi's hate crimes law."

Those who care about the Waffle House transgender victim agree, it's time.

“It’s just a hate crime. That’s all I can tell you. It was a hate crime and she was targeted for being transgender,” said the victim’s friend.

Two bills designed to update Mississippi’s hate crimes law both failed in committee this legislative session.

Jimtarius Hampton will spend the weekend in the DeSoto County jail.

He faces a judge on Monday.

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