(UPDATE – 9/18/2017) From the University of Mississippi: The driver of the vehicle, Coty Pierce Lewis, has been charged with Driving Under the Influence, Expired Tag, No Proof of Liability Insurance, and No Drivers License. At this time, nothing indicates that this event was an intentional act.
(ORIGINAL STORY – 9/17/2017)
A Confederate soldier statue in Mississippi was damaged Saturday night after investigators said driver slammed a pick up truck into the base of a monument on the campus of Ole Miss.
In a tweet, the Ole Miss Police Department said the driver was driving under the influence. Local 24 is waiting on details surrounding the crash that left two people.
The plaque on the base of the statue had to be removed due to damage. The plaque was added in 2016 to provide historical context to the monument, which honors local soldiers who fought in the Confederate army.
The destruction on Rebel Drive attracted many onlookers, including James Thomas.
“My immediate thought was, ‘I’ve got to go see it,” said Thomas.
Thomas inspected the statue Sunday.
“To be honest with you,” he said, “I was hoping that they had knocked it over but that didn’t happen.”
Instead, Thomas found a barrier around the statute. It shifted on impact.
Photos given to Local 24 by a viewer show the aftermath of Saturday night’s crash. The driver’s side of the truck was badly damaged.
Campus police tweeted out information on the crash once word of the crash spread. It happened around 8:11 p.m.
“Driver investigated for driving while intoxicated,” the department tweeted. “Driver & passenger got medical attention. No indication it was a deliberate act. Being investigated as a crash. Will consult with prosecutor/DA/FBI to determine if additional charges are to be filed.”
“I don’t know if the intent was to hit into the statue,” said Thomas. “I don’t know if there was intent behind it, if there was the intent to aim at the plaque, I don’t know. I’m going to consider all options.”
Thomas is an assistant professor of sociology at Ole Miss and a faculty advisor for the university’s NAACP chapter. He told Local 24 he see’s the statue one way.
“I see it as a testament to white supremacy,” he said.
Thomas has pushed for the statues removal. Given the damage to the statue by Saturday’s crash he’s hoping the university will see this as a way to move forward.
“Do they want to invest in money into repairing this monument or do they want to use that money to move it where, I think it should belong, which is off-campus?” he asked.
The University of Mississippi released the following statement Monday morning:
Late Saturday evening (9/16), an allegedly intoxicated driver ran into the Confederate statue on the Oxford campus. The base of the statue and the brass plaque in front of the statue sustained damage. The damaged pieces are being stored by the Facilities Management Department during the investigation. A thorough review by a structural engineer will be needed to determine the full extent of the damage and the structural integrity of the statue. In the meantime, the area remains cordoned off to ensure public safety. The university can confirm that those involved with this accident are not current or former students or employees.
Local 24 also has a call out to the district attorney’s office inquiring about charges. We will keep you updated as new information becomes available.