Sharmeka Moffitt, 20, is in critical condition at the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport, La., after she was set on fire by three men in white hoods who burned the initials KKK and a racial slur on the hood of her car.
According to The Shreveport Times, Moffitt was walking in the Civitian park in Winnsboro, Franklin Parish, on a paved trail, when the incident happened.
The NY Daily News reports that Louisiana police spokeswoman Lt. Julie Lewis, said they responded to an emergency call Sunday night and found Sharmeka Moffit with burns on more than half of her body. Police say Moffitt is presently in "critical condition" at the hospital with third-degree burns.
The Shreveport Times reports Moffitt suffered extensive burns from below her neck down to her calves. Her mother, Edna, said there were "third degree burns, down her chest and legs... Basically her arms are real bad."
According to the NY Daily News, the FBI is investigating the attack as a possible hate crime but no arrests have been made. Moffitt told the police that three men in white hoods doused her in a flammable liquid, possibly gasoline, and set her on fire. She said she extinguished the fire using water from a spigot.
Sharmeka's mother's car was also inscribed with the letters KKK and a racial slur was smeared on the car in a substance believed to be tooth-paste. Police say the letters are apparently a reference to the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.
Moffitt could not say what race were the men who attacked her. Unfortunately, the park has no surveillance cameras.
Members of the community were stunned by the attack, especially because of the potential that it was racially motivated.
The Shreveport Times reports Franklin Sheriff Kevin Cobb said “These are very unusual and troubling circumstances and won’t be taken lightly. We will follow the facts and seek justice. The best thing we can do now is pray for Sharmeka’s healing and for her family.”
According to The Gawker, Cobb said: "This is a horrific event for our community. It makes everyone uneasy. It is our hope that everyone stands together at this time, and follow the information that is gathered, follow the facts, follow the evidence and hopefully that will lead us to justice in this case."
Police, however, say they have few leads and no suspects.
The president of the local branch of the NAACP, Otis Chisley, said he contacted the Moffitts. He explained that more facts are needed to draw conclusions about the incident. He said, "everyone wants to move with caution" about drawing conclusions.
According to Chisley, in spite of denials, racism and KKK activity persist in the state. He said: "It's prevalent throughout Louisiana. It's hidden but it exists."
Winnsboro Mayor Jackie Johnson expressed disbelief. But he cautioned: “We should not jump to conclusions. I’m not completely convinced it was a racial incident. We should stay out of the way of the investigation as the police seek those who did this.”
Sharmeka Moffitt's mother, Edna, said her daughter had never been threatened. She said tearfully: "To my knowledge, she has never been threatened. I have never known anything like this to happen in Winnsboro.”
The Gawker reports that the local sheriff's department denied an earlier report that the attack was provoked because Moffitt was wearing an Obama T-shirt.
According to The Shreveport Times, Moffitt works at ConAgra’s Lamb Weston sweet potato processing plant in Delhi and had applied to be a substitute teacher in Franklin Parish.