Cops in Mobile, Ala. made their first arrest in the apparent mob beating of Matthew Owens: Terry Rawls surrendered Wednesday on assault charges.
In less than a week, the brutal attack on Owens -- which left him in critical condition -- went from being described as a hate crime connected to the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida to an ongoing feud between neighbors, WKRG reported.
"This here is an ongoing dispute with neighbors, that's what this is," Mobile Police Corporal Chris Levy told the station.
Levy said that officers have been called to break up fights between Rawls and Owens before, but never filed charges because Owens instigated them.
It was reported that about 20 African American adults beat Owens -- who is white -- into a bloody pulp with brass knuckles, pipes and even paint cans last Saturday. One of the assailants allegedly uttered, "Now that's justice for Trayvon" -- in an apparent reference to the shooting death of the unarmed 17-year-old boy by George Zimmerman in February.
Cops said on Wednesday that they expect to arrest three more suspects involved in the fight, but added that the so-called "mob" consisted mostly of bystanders, WKRG reported.
"What we know is that Mr. Owens was fussing at some kids about playing basketball in the street," said Levy. "These kids then went back and told their parents about the exchange they had with Mr. Owens."
The adults "were having a get together down the street, [and] came down to where Mr. Owens is, and there was a series of racial slurs exchanged, and there was a fight," said Levy.
He ruled out that it was a hate crime and said that the Trayvon Martin shooting wasn't a motivating factor, according to media reports.
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more