The Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP is calling for a federal investigation of the three men charged with civil rights intimidation for throwing lit fireworks and yelling racial slurs at residents in a public housing complex.
NAACP officials say they want the details of the case sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and federal agencies so the case can be documented within the Annual Hate Crimes Report.
"We want to bring awareness to the fact that we have not overcome racial issues and prejudice in our community," said local NAACP President Valoria Armstrong. "This is an example that is pretty blatant and malicious in its intent. Our goal is to make sure we don't allow these issues to get swept under the rug."
James Smiley, 27, one of the three charged in the Saturday night incident at the East Lake Courts complex, was a Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services paramedic. He resigned after being charged.
Colton Partin, 21, and Kyle Montgomery, 21, also were charged.
The three were arrested shortly after they drove away from the complex. Fireworks were in their truck bed, and the three admitted the harassment, according to a court affidavit.
Armstrong said the NAACP also is concerned about other recent racially related incidents or statements.
Less than a month ago in Polk County, part of a cinderblock inscribed with a racial threat was thrown through an interracial couple's home. A note attached to the block read, "Get out of town N----- or u die" and was signed with the initials "KKK."
This month, in a story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press about the state of local schools and the departure of former Superintendent Jim Scales, Hamilton County school board member Rhonda Thurman said poor inner-city schools were getting too much money without much payoff and "slaves learned to read."
According to NAACP officials, the statement implied "that current school-aged African-American children, most of whom are the descendants of slaves, will not surpass their ancestors in the arena of educational attainment."
"All of these described events are unfortunate and set this community back decades," said Armstrong.