The FBI will investigate last week’s killing of gay mayoral candidate Marco McMillian as a possible hate crime, the agency has confirmed.

On Wednesday, Democratic US Representative Bennie Thompson urged for the FBI to get involved with the case.

Congressman Thompson said he had confidence in the sheriff investigating the death but that he wanted the FBI to get involved because that’s what McMillian’s family wanted.

The agency “will assess evidence to determine whether federal prosecution is appropriate,” Deborah Madden, an FBI public affairs specialist, said in a statement on Thursday.

Marco McMillian, 33, was found on Wednesday 27 February near the Mississippi River west of Clarksdale, the city where he was running for mayor on a platform of helping the poor and fighting crime.

Police charged Lawrence Reed, 22, from Shelby, Mississippi, in connection with murder soon after the body was discovered.

Last weekend, in a statement, McMillian’s family said the victim had been beaten, dragged and burned.

Mississippi’s hate crimes law covers acts motivated by bias against a victim’s race but not sexual orientation.

However, a federal hate crimes law covers bias against sexual orientation and local and state agencies can seek assistance to pursue a federal hate crime under the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The Act was introduced in 2009 as is named after murdered gay teenager Matthew Shepard.