John William King, the ringleader behind the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr., has been executed.

King was executed by lethal injection at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville on Wednesday evening, an official confirmed to The Hill. He was pronounced dead at 7:08 p.m., the official said.


According to The Associated Press, King orchestrated the early morning attack on Byrd on June 7, 1998, that would later lead to his body being left in pieces along a road near a stretch of woods in Jasper, Texas.

King had reportedly stopped Byrd along a road to offer him a ride shortly before the attack. With the help of two other men, Lawrence Russell Brewer and Shawn Allen Berry, King reportedly beat him up and chained him to a pickup truck.

Byrd was reportedly dragged for nearly three miles along a rugged road as his body shredded to pieces. 

King is the second person to be executed in the case. Lawrence Russell Brewer was put to death in 2011 in connection with charges related to Byrd’s murder. Shawn Allen Berry has been sentenced to life behind bars for Byrd's killing.

A motive for Byrd's murder has not been determined, but prosecutors said he was targeted because of his race. 

In 2009, former President Obama signed the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to provide resources to local and tribal jurisdictions to help them "more effectively investigate and prosecute hate crimes,” according to the Justice Department. Shepard, a gay man who was killed over his sexuality, also died in 1998.