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TV Reporter Attacked by Murder Suspect's Family

Three people upset that a news crew was reporting on the arrest of a relative attacked the television reporter and yelled racial slurs at her and a photographer, authorities said Tuesday.

The family members, all white, began yelling and charged at black WSPA-TV reporter Charmayne Brown while she was standing in the street near the family's home in Union, said news director Alex Bongiorno.

Brown was punched in the head, and black cameraman Ti Barnes was also struck as he tried to pull family members off Brown, Bongiorno said. A video of the attack shows Brown, who wasn't seriously injured, defending herself.

"I think she's more affected by the verbal abuse than the physical abuse. She's really shaken up," Bongiorno said.

The fight was taped by a white crew from a second television station. They were not attacked.

Tousha Smith, 31, Billie Joe Taylor, 31, and Trina Vinson, 48, were being held at a Union jail Tuesday evening on assault and battery charges, authorities said. South Carolina has no law allowing a hate crime charge.

Attempts to contact the family were unsuccessful; messages left at several numbers were not immediately returned, and authorities said they weren't sure whether the three had attorneys.

Charges are pending against a fourth person, authorities said. The reporter and photographer were not charged.

Brown was reporting on the death of 73-year-old Tommy Howell, who was killed by a blow to the head after an argument, authorities said. His body was found Tuesday in his home. Police arrested his grandson, Shane Howell, and charged him with murder, Union Public Safety Chief Sam White said.

Shane Howell remains in jail, and it is unclear whether he has an attorney.

"These people were very upset," White said. "I guess they just took it out the wrong way."