UPDATE, Dec. 12, 2014: Since we first reported our story, the FBI has agreed to look into the questionable circumstances surrounding the hanging death of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy. Bladen County, N.C., District Attorney Jon David confirmed to the Associated Press that an FBI agent has been assigned to the case.
While Ferguson, Mo., erupted after a grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, another story was playing out some 900 miles away from the cameras — and the outrage.
On the morning of Aug. 29, Lennon Lacy, a 17-year-old African-American high school football player from Bladenboro, N.C., was found dead in the open field of a mobile home park, hanging from a swing set.
When Lennon’s mother, Claudia, arrived on the scene, she felt in her heart that he had not committed suicide. “When I looked at him I knew — I said — I said to myself — I said, ‘He didn’t do this… He couldn’t have.’”
Local police ruled it a suicide, and the autopsy report recorded the cause of death as “asphyxia due to hanging.” The autopsy report also noted that Lennon “had been depressed over the recent death of his uncle.” Lennon’s brother Pierre disputes that, asking, “How do you psychologically evaluate a dead person? He was just too happy for life.”
The Lacy family says the police rushed to rule Lennon’s death a suicide despite their many unanswered questions such as the shoes Lennon was found wearing – they were a size and a half too small. They say all they want is a thorough investigation before any conclusions are reached.
The president of the North Carolina NAACP, the Rev. William Barber II, says, “The call was made so quick. And what concerns us about that is that if Lennon Lee Lacy was white and was found hanging in a … predominantly black trailer park that was known to have some drug involvement and other things, we just don’t believe that it would have been this quick rush to say it was a suicide. It would have been a very, very, very intense investigation.”
The North Carolina NAACP hired an independent pathologist to examine the autopsy report – in the report, questions were raised about the way the body was handled and whether or not it was feasible for Lennon to hang himself from the swing set.
In light of the pathologist’s report, the NAACP requested that U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker of the Eastern District of North Carolina take over the case.
The Bladen County District Attorney’s office said in a statement, “While the investigation is ongoing, and no final determinations have been made, to date we have not received any evidence of criminal wrongdoing surrounding the death.”