2 men charged in attack on Louisiana newspaper carrier

ROSEPINE, La. (AP) — Two Vernon Parish men have been formally charged in the December attack on a southwest Louisiana newspaper carrier.

The state on Monday charged Douglas Paul James, 32, and Dillon Matthew James, 24, with one count each of second-degree battery in the Dec. 17 beating of Woodie Blanks, 67, as he hand-delivered a newspaper to the door of a customer in Rosepine, The American Press reported.

Vernon Parish District Attorney Terry Lambright said he believes the charges fit the circumstances.

“Based on the information reviewed by my office in regards to this case, I do believe these charges are appropriate,” Lambright said.

The men are to be arraigned Feb. 22.

Blanks said he had dropped off the newspaper at the door because the homeowner could not easily make the walk down the driveway to the mailbox. But as he turned to go back to his car, a group of men confronted him and asked him why he was on the property, he said.

Blanks said he tried to explain but was blindsided almost immediately and knocked to the ground.

“They kept hitting me,” Blanks recalled.

The homeowner was eventually able to call off the attackers. Blanks escaped and drove to the Rosepine Police Department, where he reported the incident.

The assault left him with serious injuries to his face and eyes. After multiple surgeries, Blanks has been told he may never regain full vision, the newspaper reported.

The incident has continued to affect the community, and Sheriff Sam Craft said he understands that emotional response.

“I have spoken many times with the victim’s family and I understand their feelings and concerns. It was a horrible thing that happened,” Craft told the American Press on Tuesday.

Both men have claimed the attack was in response to what they called a prowler who had been at the homeowner’s property in the days before the incident. Craft said they told investigators they wrongly believed Blanks was the prowler.

Craft said he is aware that some have questioned if the attack was racially motivated. Blanks is Black and his attackers are white. He said he does not believe that race played a role in the attack.

“In our investigation, there has been nothing whatsoever that has led us to believe this was racially motivated,” Craft said.

He also said he does not believe the men intended to kill Blanks.

Though he could not identify his attackers, Blanks said he distinctly remembers more than two people were involved in the attack. Craft said detectives are still working to identify any others involved.

“The men arrested gave us cooperating statements, but they would not provide any other names to us. We have not given up on that, though, and we are still working to identify anyone else involved — even if they are simply witnesses,” he said.

If convicted, the men face up to $2,000 in fines and eight years in jail.