09/06/2011 06:10 pm ET Updated Nov 06, 2011

White teens sued by dead black man's family in Mississippi

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Reuters) - The family of a black man who authorities say died after being beaten and run over in Mississippi filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Tuesday against a group of white teenagers over what the family calls a racially motivated attack.

James C. Anderson, a 49-year-old autoworker, was returning to his car before dawn on June 26 when he was confronted by a group of seven white teenagers in a motel parking lot in Jackson, according to the suit.

It states the teens had been drinking and were on a mission to mess with black people.

Several of the teens took turns beating Anderson before one of them struck him with a Ford F-250 truck, the suit said. Anderson died at the scene.

During the assault, one of the teens yelled "White Power," the suit said.

Video of the incident, caught by a hotel security camera, has been played on cable television news. The FBI is investigating the case as a possible civil rights violation, which can include hate crimes.

"The whole world saw the brutal attack that James Anderson suffered at the hands of people who simply wanted to hurt someone of a different race," said his family's Mississippi attorney, Winston J. Thompson III. "We cannot ignore such cold-hearted cruelty."

Two teenagers have been charged with crimes. Deryl Dedmon Jr., 19, was charged with murder and John Aaron Rice, 18, with simple assault. An attorney for Rice previously denied hateful intent on the part of his client.

The suit also names those who never landed a blow on Anderson but allegedly acted as lookouts and prevented his escape. The allegations include battery, negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death.

"They had a civil duty to stop the assault, call police or seek help for Mr. Anderson," said Morris Dees, chief trial attorney for the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the suit with Thompson. "These kids took a bad turn in the road."

Dees said the suit -- filed in Hinds County, Mississippi on behalf of Anderson's mother and three siblings -- is not expected to result in monetary damages. Instead, the family wants to use it to bring out facts of the case, he said.

"They want to get their story out to save others from the same fate," Dees told Reuters.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)