Three students from the University of Mississippi have not only been suspended from their fraternity house, Kappa Alpha, but face possible investigation by the Department of Justice after a photo of them posing with guns in front of a shot-up Emmett Till memorial was discovered.
In a report from ProPublica, the photo was shared on Ben LeClere‘s private Instagram account on March 1. The photo shows LeClere and two other students — one of them named John Lowe, also a Kappa Alpha fraternity member, the other unidentified — posing in front of the Till marker that commemorates the site where Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River. LeClere is holding a shotgun while Lowe is holding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
LeClere posted the picture on Lowe’s birthday with the following message: “‘one of Memphis’s finest and the worst influence I’ve ever met.”
It’s unknown if the fraternity members shot the marker or are just posing in front of it. The photo was brought to the attention of the university after someone who saw it filed a bias report to the university’s Office of Student Conduct. The photo was finally removed after the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica began contacting fraternity members and friends.
The trio was suspended by Kappa Alpha on Wednesday and was followed by a statement from Taylor Anderson, the president of Ole Miss’ Kappa Alpha Order.
“The photo is inappropriate, insensitive and unacceptable. It does not represent our chapter,” Anderson, wrote in an email. “We have and will continue to be in communication with our national organization and the University.”
Information regarding the photo has been referred to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for further investigation too, according to Chad Lamar. Lamar, who’s the U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Mississippi in Oxford, said that he’ll be working closely with the organization on the matter.
The university also referred the matter to the university police department, which in turn gave it to the FBI. However, the FBI told police it would not further investigate the incident because the photo did not pose a specific threat.
Reports of the Till marker being riddled with bullet holes first surfaced three years ago. A tourist by the name of Kevin Wilson Jr. had posted a photo of the plaque to his Facebook page, showing the sign blasted with bullet holes.
Aside from that, another marker dedicated to the civil rights figure in Mississippi has also been vandalized.
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