ATLANTA — The beating of a black female Army reservist outside a Georgia restaurant is being investigated as a possible hate crime, federal authorities said Wednesday.
Tashawnea Hill was kicked and punched by a white man Sept. 9 as he 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 7-year-old daughter while opening the restaurant's door, police said.
FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said the Justice Department's civil rights division has initiated a probe into the incident.
Hill, who was taken to the hospital after the incident, said Wednesday that she is still in shock.
"I haven't been able to sleep since then," she said in a telephone interview on the way to the doctor's office. "My major concern is that my daughter is OK. Mommy will heal up. Mommy will get better, but she's the future."
West was charged with battery, disorderly conduct and cruelty to children, and is currently out on 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.
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.