New Hampshire have labeled the attempted lynching of a 8-year-old child a hate crime after facing criticism for a very sloppy investigation.
Boston Globe outlet Boston.com reports Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase changed the status of the investigation Monday evening (Sept. 11.). The incident involving the child and a group of teenagers happened Aug. 28 and gained viral attention when the child’s mother Cassandra Merlin posted harrowing images of her son’s injuries on Facebook.
“So my son is being flown to Dartmouth after a 14-year-old kid decided to hang him from a tree,” she said. “I don’t care if this was a so called accident or not. My son almost died because of some little sh** teenage kids.”
Family members like the child’s grandmother Lorrie Slattery told reporters the boy was playing with a group of teens in the Claremont neighborhood when it took a dark turn. The teens reportedly called him racial epithets while throwing rocks at his legs.
“The (teenagers) said, ‘Look at this,’ supposedly putting the rope around their necks,” Slattery said. “One boy said to (her grandson), ‘Let’s do this,’ and then pushed him off the picnic table and hung him.”
The child was able to free himself after swinging three times as the teens watched. Merlin said her child only sustained injuries to his neck in the incident. Other family members also believe the incident could’ve been racially motivated. Chase caught public backlash Sunday (Sept. 10) after a report from The Root claimed the department refused to release more information about the incident.
“I’ve got to basically be mum on the specific facts because everything we know about the incident is coming from the juveniles,” he said, citing that the teens involved (not the child) had to be protected from the public. “These people need to be protected,” Chase said. “We don’t want things to follow kids throughout their life.”
While activists and political pundits have chimed in on the incident, investigators are having trouble finding out information about the incident since no adults were present. The group of people present were the group of teens and the child’s 11-year-old sister. Slattery’s account of the incident stems from what the children told her.
“I’ve got to basically be mum on the specific facts because everything we know about the incident is coming from the juveniles,” he said.
Still, Slattery believes harm to the child was intentional. “If it was an accident, that boy or anybody there wouldn’t have left him,” Slattery said to the Valley News. “I believe it was intentional.”