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FBI: Shots fired at youth not hate crime

Investigators with the Panola County Sheriff’s Office believe a shot fired at four Oxford minors traveling to Batesville was a case of mistaken identity, and have charged the alleged shooter with four counts of aggravated assault. The FBI will not present additional hate crime charges, officials said this week.

Jason Sides, 24, was taken into custody last Monday, Oct. 19, in the Coles Point area. Deputies were able to match his name with the registration of his truck, which was described to them as a green truck with a Rebel Flag license plate on the front bumper.

The four teens from Oxford told authorities they had pulled off Hwy. 6E about where the Dollar General store is located to change seats because the driver was sleepy. They reported the truck passed their car and turned around before they saw a gun barrel and heard a shot.

There was initial confusion because the youths drove back to Oxford at a high rate of speed with the truck chasing them until approximately the Lafayette County line where they stopped an Oxford Police Department vehicle and reported the alleged fired shot.

They were directed back to the Panola Sheriff’s Office, this time with their mother, who was irate that deputies weren’t yet looking for the shooter. A widely-circulated video taken by one of the teens recorded a confrontation between a deputy and his mother at the county jail.

In the video the woman was loudly berating the officers, and later assaulted a deputy leaving him with scratches on his forearms.

The mother, Jernera Williams of Oxford, has charges pending for assaulting a law enforcement officer. She was arrested the night of the incident when she approached deputies at the county jail in a belligerent manner, and has since posted bail.

After an outburst that resulted in her arrest, Williams worked closely with officers as they investigated the crime.

Sides was still being held Monday evening at the David M. Bryan Detention Center on $60,000 bond ($15,000 for each charge) for the four counts of aggravated assault.

Sides told investigators that he feared for his life the night of the shooting because he thought the car he saw pull off the road belonged to people he had confrontations with earlier in the week, and the occupants were turning around to attack him.

“He relayed to us that he’s been on pins and needles and looking  behind his back every time the wind blows because of something that had happened with other people,” said Investigations Lt. Clint Roberson.

Roberson said investigators gave all the information about the case to the FBI because the Oxford youths are black and Sides is white. “They looked at the facts and said that it did not meet the criteria of a hate crime,” Roberson said.

“Saying I didn’t shoot at them because they were black is not going to be a strong defense by any means,” he said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 800-729-2169.