Police are re-examining a case in which a man was badly beaten. Bradley County Sheriff deputies caught Christopher Hinds holding the victim, 60-year-old James Russell in a headlock earlier this month. He was charged with aggravated assault.
Russell is recovering from a collapsed lung, several broken ribs, bumps and bruises. He's out of the hospital now but in hiding afraid for his life.
"I thought about my family, never getting to see my grandsons again or my wife," said James Russell.
Russell says flashbacks of the beating in Red Clay State Park are cruel and hard to believe.
"He grabbed my ponytail and yanked my head all the way back again until I was looking into his eyes and he said, 'I think I'll scalp you, I've always wanted to scalp an Indian' and at that point I did not think I was going to make it through the night," said Russell.
Russell says he was on his way home when the 3 strangers attacked. They accused him of running another family member off the road but Russell said he didn't know what they were talking about and that didn't matter.
"Then next thing I know there's somebody kicking me in the groin repeatedly," said Russell. " I didn't know who it was until I heard a woman's voice."
Deputies found Russell in a choke hold but family members say Russell was the one in handcuffs first, made to take a breathalyzer test.
"I was in agony, I mean I was almost screaming in pain," said Russell.
When his name was cleared, deputies charged Christopher Hinds with aggravated assault. The two others went home.
"It was a simple assault and in the state of Tennessee, a misdemeanor or any arrestable misdemeanor has to happen in the presence of an officer," said James Bradford, Bradley County Sheriff's Dept.
Officials are calling the attack a case of mistaken identity that led to aggravated assault. Russell wants to see the charges upgraded. While he's proud to be a Native American Veteran who fought for our country and the rights we all share, he says the fight for justice and equality is not over.
"The storm whispered you can not withstand this storm but today I whispered back, I am the storm. The storm is just beginning but it's going to be a legal storm."
Investigators did agree to do a follow-up interview with the victim after Channel 3 pushed for answers. They had only talked with the victim on the scene right after the attack and say that the racial slurs were never mentioned to responding officers on the scene. The case is now being reviewed again and deputies say more charges are possible.
At this point in the investigation, the attack is considered to be aggravated assault, not a hate crime. We'll continue to follow this story and keep you updated on any new developments.