CHESTER -- Chester County authorities have asked state police and the FBI to help investigate a beating they say pitted two white men against a black teenager.
Investigators say the two white men used racial slurs as they punched and kicked 18-year-old Rosevelt McClurkin Jr. of Chester. A second black man was hurt when he intervened to stop the fight. That man, Collin Stringfellow, suffered a black eye and bruise on his cheek.
Children were among the bystanders who witnessed the altercation in the parking lot near an IGA grocery store about 5:10 p.m. Tuesday.
Authorities have charged the two white suspects, brothers Donald "Toadie" Williford and Brandon Todd Williford, with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.
The pair also could be charged with federal hate crimes, but a decision won't be made until next week, said Chester County Sheriff Robby Benson.
Detectives say the incident started when the Williford brothers spotted McClurkin riding in a car with Toadie Williford's 16-year-old daughter, Jessica.
Jessica Williford later told officers that she and McClurkin are friends who work together at a Sonic fast-food restaurant. After spotting them, the Willifords followed the pair to the IGA on J.A. Cochran Bypass, Benson said.
Once there, they confronted McClurkin.
"From what I gather, they pulled him out of the car and started beating on him," Benson said.
Benson credited Stringfellow with acting as a Good Samaritan in trying to break up the fight. Stringfellow, 28, told The Herald that he had gone into the IGA to get change for the car wash.
"They looked back at me and they were like, 'Mind your business, boy,'" he said. "I was like, 'I'm not going to let it go down like that.'"
As the two men walked toward him, Stringfellow said, McClurkin was able to run away. Officers later found McClurkin hiding in the walk-in freezer inside the IGA.
Stringfellow is the nephew of Chester County NAACP President Bill Stringfellow.
"It should be done as a hate crime because of the magnitude of it," Bill Stringfellow told The Herald. "I thought we had got beyond this in Chester."
Toadie Williford declined to comment on Wednesday to WSOC-TV, The Herald's news partner.
Victim fled scene
During the altercation, authorities said, Toadie Williford tried to take off a prosthetic leg and use it to strike Stringfellow.
"I'm not going to let this just slide by," Benson said. "We're going to look at it in every direction. There's a possibility we could carry it on to a federal level."
Collin Stringfellow and McClurkin are distant relatives, but neither realized it at the time, Bill Stringfellow said. The younger Stringfellow also is the nephew of former Chester Mayor Wanda Stringfellow.
"He was trying to be a good citizen and just stop the assault that was taking place," said Wanda Stringfellow. "And they turned on him. I don't even have words to express the dismay the family feels at something like this."
The former mayor likened the incident to a "modern-day lynching."
Investigators are handling the case as a potential hate crime because it appears to be racially motivated, Benson said. Detectives from the state Law Enforcement Division and FBI are staying in contact with Chester County officials on the case.