NC NAACP wants federal investigation into teen's hanging death
Posted November 18, 2014
Updated November 19, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP is calling for a federal investigation into what it believes is the "race-based homicide" of a black 17-year-old Bladen County boy who was found hanging from a swing set this past summer.
Investigators ruled the death of Lennon Lee Lacy – discovered Aug. 29 on a playground in Bladenboro – a suicide, but Lacy's family and the NAACP are questioning the police investigation, saying detectives rushed to reach a conclusion and did not fully investigate all possible leads.
"What has concerned the family and us is the local authorities' seemingly impatient desire for easy answers," state NAACP President Rev. William Barber told reporters at a news conference in Raleigh Tuesday. "Questions remain."
Barber said he met with U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker for nearly 90 minutes Tuesday and that Walker said he will "thoroughly review" the request to determine if and how the U.S. Department of Justice should be involved.
Bladen County's district attorney, Jon David, defended the local investigation in a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying a preliminary review found that "it appears to be detailed, thorough and professional."
Both the State Bureau of Investigation and Bladenboro Police Department "have my office's absolute confidence," he added.
"My office and the investigating agencies have been, and remain, receptive to reviewing any and all information that would shed light on the circumstances surrounding Lacy's death," David said.
"In a show of transparency, we welcome federal investigators to review our file and join in the investigation if they so choose," David added. "At this point, my office has not been presented with any evidence to suggest that there was any foul play in the death of Lennon Lacy."
Lacy's mother, Claudia Lacy, spoke at Tuesday's news conference, saying that she's willing to accept the findings that her son killed himself but only after a more comprehensive investigation addresses other leads and information that haven't been thoroughly reviewed.
"God has prepared me for all things," she said. "With His grace and mercy, I've come this far. He's not going to leave me now."
Barber declined to comment on what information an independent review of the case has turned up but said his organization could release more details this week.
"There are facts that we can't talk about at this press conference," he said. "This is serious business, and we've asked the federal government and the FBI to come in."
Claudia Lacy said that her son, a junior and varsity football player at West Bladen High School, had goals for the future and had been excited about his first game of the school year after being sidelined for a season to work on his grades.
He had been grieving the recent passing of an uncle, and Claudia Lacy told investigators that he had been depressed.
But Barber said it was a word that she had used to describe his mourning and that Lennon Lacy had no history of mental illness and had never been diagnosed as clinically depressed.
The boy was found around 7:30 a.m. on the Friday of his first football game, wearing shoes that were two sizes too small – one of many things that has concerned the family.
By the time Claudia Lacy arrived, Barber said, her son's body had been placed in a body bag, and police had released the scene – a move also being criticized by the Lacy family's attorney, Heather Rattelade.
Guidelines and protocols on how to handle a possible crime scene weren't followed correctly in the case, Rattelade said.
"By 3:09 p.m., the lead investigator notified the medical examiner that he believed it was a suicide," she said.