Feds probe attack on Ga. reservist as hate crime

A black female Army reservist said Wednesday she hasn't been able to sleep since she was beaten by a white man in front of her 7-year-old daughter last week, and federal authorities said they were investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Tashawnea Hill was kicked and punched Sept. 9 as the man screamed racial slurs outside a Cracker Barrel in Morrow, about 15 miles southeast of Atlanta, police said. Troy D. West, 47, became enraged when Hill told him to be careful after he nearly hit her daughter while opening the restaurant's door, police said.

Hill was taken to the hospital afterward and said she is still in shock.

“My major concern is that my daughter is OK. Mommy will heal up. Mommy will get better, but she's the future,” Hill said in a telephone interview on the way to the doctor's office.

FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said the Justice Department's civil rights division in Washington has initiated a probe into the incident.

West was charged with battery, disorderly conduct and cruelty to children, and is currently out on $5,000 bond. A hearing has been set for Sept. 24 in Clayton County.

Police said the cruelty to children charge was included because the daughter witnessed the beating.

Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said she planned to present new charges to a grand jury, but didn't elaborate.

“I don't normally get personally involved in cases, but I am going to personally prosecute Mr. West on behalf of that victim and the citizens of this county,” Lawson said during a press conference.

West, of Poulan, hasn't returned several calls seeking comment, and it wasn't clear if he had an attorney.

West told Morrow police he became upset because Hill spit on him after accusing him of trying to hit her daughter, according to the police report. But several witnesses said they never saw Hill spit on West.

His mother said in a brief phone interview Tuesday that her son would never hurt a mother, especially in front of a child.

“This just doesn't sound right,” said Johnny West from her Poulan home.

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