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 Claudia Lacy, center, cries as she thanks the people that showed up at First Baptist Church in Bladenboro, N.C., to listen to the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, talk about the developments in the investigation of her son’s death. Lennon Lacy, a 17-year-old, was found hanging from a swing set in the middle of a trailer park in late August. Surrounding Claudia Lacy are attorney Alan Rogers, left, Wilson Lacy, sitting, Lennon’ brother Pierre Lacy, Rev. Gregory D. Taylor, Rev. William Barber II and attorney Heather Rattelade. (AP Photo/The Fayetteville Observer, Raul R. Rubiera)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • FBI is looking into the death of Lennon Lacy, 17, and the investigations that followed
  • Lacy was found hanging from a tree after he went for a walk on a summer night
  • His mother says he did not commit suicide
  • The facts don’t add up
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Bladenboro, North Carolina  — Claudia Lacy  is demanding that authorites prove that her son hung himself. She is justified in requesting a thorough investigation since the evidence is not adding up.  She says, local and state investigators have done neither to support their theory that Lennon Lacy hanged himself one summer night. She admits that she’s long lost confidence in the Bladenboro Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

The last time Lacy saw and heard her son was August 28. Lennon, 17, played the lineman position for the West Bladen High School Knights, and was focused on football. According to his mother his diet and exercise routine were in complement to his interest in football. In fact the night he left the house he was actually going to workout because he had asthma, which interferes with working out during the day, so his doctor recommended that he exercise outdoors at night when the temperature and humidity dropped.

His family says that night, he packed a gym bag, washed his ankle brace and hung it on the clothesline to dry before heading out for an evening walk.  It was around 10:30, when Lennon left his family’s small apartment and headed down a dirt road never to  return home.

The next morning a little before 7:30, he was discovered  hanging from the frame of a swing set in the center of a mobile home community. According to medical documents, his body was covered in fire ants.

Lennon’s mother was called to the scene several hours later, after he’d been placed into a body bag. She immediately believed that Lennon’s death was the result of some foul play. She believes Lennon was lynched.

Lennon’s older brother Pierre Lacy says, “He may have either been strangled somewhere else or been placed there or he was hung there while people were around watching him die.”

Even though  North Carolina’s Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Deborah Radisch declared his death a suicide the family’s position is that there are too many facts that don’t add up to suicide. Mrs. Lacy feels that they were too quick to rule suicide. She mentioned that as part of the initial investigation  a state investigator asked her if her son had been depressed recently. She responded yes not meaning that he was clinically depressed but rather that  a relative had died recently. So he was mourning but certainly not contemplating   suicide. The state medical examiner cited that exchange in the autopsy report. Claudia Lacy refuted the report and explained that the day before Lacy died, he had attended the funeral of his 78-year-old great-uncle and what she meant was that  her son was upset but not suffering from depression.

The family says Lennon had not changed his routine and was focused on college and football however he was  distracted by his ex-girlfriend who was a 31-year-old white neighbor. The age of consent in North Carolina is 16 and Lennon was 17. Mrs. Lacy did not like their drastic age difference and explains that she told her son of her disapproval. At some point, the couple broke up. It goes without saying that some people in their small, southern town did not like that the two were together.  In the wake of his death, some wondered whether Lennon had been killed because he was in an interracial relationship.

A week after Lennon was buried, a local teenager was arrested for defacing his grave, possibly due to the relationship that he had participated.

Rev. William Barber, a national board member for the NAACP says, “There are too many questions and it very well could be a lynching or a staged lynching. We don’t know — but what we do know is there has to be a serious and full investigation of these matters.”

The NAACP hired Florida-based forensic pathologist Christena Roberts to analyze the case and Dr. Radisch’s autopsy, completed for the state.  Roberts’ first concern was basic physics. Lennon was 5-foot-9. The crossbar of the swing set frame he was found hanging from was 7-foot-6, according to the NAACP review. With no swings or anything at the scene on which he could have climbed, according to the review, it’s unclear how Lennon reached the top.

“His size, his stature does not add up to him being capable of constructing all of this alone – in the dark,” Lennon’s brother says.

According to the 911 recording and the initial police report, a 52-year-old woman got the 207-pound teen down, while she was on the phone with an emergency dispatcher. Questions concerning how she got him down have not been addressed.

“Dr. Radisch also noted that she was not provided with photographs or dimensions of the swing set. Without this information, she would be unable to evaluate the ability to create this scenario,” according to the NAACP review.

Further Claudia lacy says that she  told investigators that the belts used to fashion the noose did not belong to Lennon. She was sure of it because she brought all his clothes.

The Bladen County Coroner and Medical Examiner Hubert Kinlaw believed the belts might have been dog leashes.

Radisch thought that “some portion must be missing because there was no secondary cut in either belt. The cut would have been necessary to bring down Lennon’s body,” according to the review.

Also, the shoes Lennon was wearing when his body was found were not his, according to his family.

Pierre Lennon’s stated that when Lennon  left home that night he was wearing size 12 Air Jordan’s. However, he was found wearing size 10.5 Nike Air Force shoes. The Air Jordan’s were not with Lennon’s body when he arrived at the state medical examiner’s office, according to the NAACP review.

“He’s going to walk a quarter mile from his house in a pair of shoes that’s two sizes too small after he takes off his new pair of shoes – and this is a 17-year-old black kid with a brand new pair of Jordan’s on. He’s going to take those Jordan’s off and just get rid of them and put on some shoes that’s not his — we don’t know where he got them from, no laces in them — and continue to walk down this dirt road late at night to a swing set in the middle of the trailer park and hang himself,” Pierre Lacey says.

“How can I believe that?” Pierre Lacey added.

There are also questions about who first declared Lennon’s death a suicide.

“Dr. Radisch noted that her determination of (manner of death) in this case as suicide was based on the information she was provided by law enforcement and the local medical examiner. She would have likely called the (manner of death) ‘pending’ while awaiting toxicology and investigation but the (local medical examiner) had already signed the (manner of death) as suicide,” according to the NAACP review.

However, in the summary of the case, written the day Lennon was found, the local medical examiner asked “did he hang self? Will autopsy tell us?” Kinlaw also left the conclusion on the manner of death “pending.”

The idea that  Lennon’s death could actually be and most likely  was the result of a lynching  has stirred up old fears and fresh concern as residents raise doubts about whether authorities, who called the teen’s death a suicide, adequately investigated the possibility his death might have been, in fact, a lynching.

On Saturday, protesters marched through the heart of town to call for a thorough examination of what happened to Lennon Lacy, who was found hanging by two belts from a playground swing set near his home Aug. 29. The case had appeared to stall for months, but in recent days the demand for answers and suspicions that local authorities allowed the case to founder have grown. Now, the FBI is looking into Lacy’s death and the local and state investigations that followed.

“We know it was a hanging,” said Rev. William Barber II before Saturday’s march. “But the question is, ‘Was it self-inflicted? Was it a staged hanging? Or was it a hanging or lynching homicide?’ ”

The state NAACP chapter organized Saturday’s protest after pushing for weeks to have federal authorities look into Lacy’s death, which has roiled this town of fewer than 2,000 residents, where 80 percent are white and 18 percent are black. Barber said there is evidence “that suggests possible race-based foul play,” including details about Lacy’s romantic relationship with an older white woman. But Barber said he and the family have not reached any conclusions about what happened. They just want a full-fledged investigation.

The protest Saturday echoed the protests in other parts of the country over the police-related deaths of black men such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. Those names were on the lips of many people here, and that larger protest movement appeared to energize the local marchers. But the details of Lacy’s case — and how the march unfolded with none of the rancor that has reverberated in the streets of Ferguson — also appeared to recall the earlier civil rights era of the 1960s. Barber noted it, too, mentioning that Lacy died Aug. 29, one day after the 59th anniversary of the death of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy murdered in Mississippi after reportedly flirting with a white woman.

The problem is so much bigger than any single death of black males by white cops or otherwise, it’s and indictment against America’s failure to accept that Blacks have the right to be, to be self expressed and live full quality lives a human beings.  Until we can have a conversation about race and resolve the fears that evolve around it the unnecessary deaths of Blacks will continue.

 

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