Lennon Lacy
December 12, 2014 8:36 AM   Subscribe

The FBI announced today that they will open an investigation into the death of 17 year old Lennon Lacy.

The announcement comes after months of statements from the NAACP that the boy's death, ruled a suicide, was a homicide.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (39 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
That story is so heartbreaking; my thoughts and prayers go out to the victim's family. I hope that at least one story of a racist murder ends with the killer being brought to justice.

Dammit America, why do we have to be like this.


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posted by DGStieber at 8:45 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


The word is "hanged." He was found hanged. He was hanged by someone who needs to go to jail for a long time.

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posted by sonic meat machine at 8:46 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


The thing I keep getting stuck on is that someone desecrated the grave; I'm haunted by the sad picture of the grave with the hole and the little temporary plaque with his name.

I can feel my brain groping for an explanation as to why someone would do that and I keep reeling it back in because I don't actually want to formulate an answer to the question.
posted by winna at 8:49 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the reason for the replacement of his shoes with someone else's.

Awful.
posted by cromagnon at 8:50 AM on December 12, 2014


This is heartbreaking. It's sad that I am expected to be happy because there is finally an investigation. As if the police investigating a murder is something we're supposed to be grateful for, rather than something we should be able to take for granted.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:51 AM on December 12, 2014 [17 favorites]


It's fantastic the FBI are getting involved, but absolutely terrible this happened and painfully not surprising that a small town police department preferred to write it off anything other than a homicide.

When I read the final post, it struck me that he was involved with a 31 year old white woman, not the least that his parents were okay with that, but also one can imagine someone who may not even known Lennon being inflamed by this relationship. The other point raised was the strange fact he had on shoes that weren't his own, and not even the right size. The fact that his grave was desecrated makes me think it's racially based, as someone is still enraged over this teen's actions after his death to continue to strike out at him. Geez, who knows, but I hope the FBI finds out.
posted by Atreides at 8:52 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the reason for the replacement of his shoes with someone else's.

It's especially odd given that its an element of another of the suspicious hangings mentioned in the Southern Studies link (the one in Silver Spring).
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:54 AM on December 12, 2014


The fact that he was obviously beaten, wearing strange shoes, his own shoes missing? And the investigators did not even swab under his nails and actually said the words "No evidence of foul play..." makes them accessories after the fact. I don't care if they knew who the murderers are... they may as well have drafted a press release declaring they did not even care.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:57 AM on December 12, 2014 [84 favorites]


BigLankyBastard: Yes. This.

If the FBI was doing its job it would not only investigate this murder, but would also open investigations on the local racist police.
posted by el io at 9:00 AM on December 12, 2014 [21 favorites]


The shoe stealing could have been taking a trophy, or even resentment that he had nicer shoes than the murderer(s). Who knows. That poor kid.
posted by emjaybee at 9:03 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Bladenboro, NC (and Bladen County) is the jurisdiction that failed to conduct even a vaguely plausible investigation.
posted by Nelson at 9:06 AM on December 12, 2014


Why is it that the best reporting on this subject is done by a UK newspaper?

Is the US press that lazy, uninterested in the truth, and unwilling to investigate difficult topics? The Guardian didn't phone it in, they talked to the racist neighbors, they photographed the parents (and what a haunting photo that is), they did the work of... Reporters.

Not only is justice apparently dead in this country, the media is as well.
posted by el io at 9:09 AM on December 12, 2014 [22 favorites]


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:11 AM on December 12, 2014


Not only is justice apparently dead in this country, the media is as well

I don't disagree with you. It's important to remember that Lennon was killed about two weeks into the Ferguson riots, though, and a lot of the media was in Missouri. As to why the local papers didn't report on it... I'm going to go with racism.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:12 AM on December 12, 2014


Bladenboro, NC (and Bladen County) is the jurisdiction that failed to conduct even a vaguely plausible investigation.

Eastern North Carolina is essentially terrible. There are large swaths which are predominantly black; these areas receive no investment and no economic development, so they're pretty much what you think of when you think of the 1930s South. The areas that aren't, are very racially polarized in a way that the three major metropolitan areas of NC aren't. Of course, Charlotte, Greensboro/Winston, and RDU have their problems, but the sandhills and coast are an absolute disaster.

I have no problem believing that this type of thing could easily happen anywhere in NC outside of the "Piedmont crescent."
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:22 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Strangely reminiscent of the death of Kendrick Johnson in south Georgia. I have spent most of my life in the south and I'm pretty certain that if a white high school athlete had died under any sort of unusual circumstance there would be an investigation to rival the Warren Commission.
posted by TedW at 9:27 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


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posted by Sophie1 at 9:29 AM on December 12, 2014


Why is it that the best reporting on this subject is done by a UK newspaper?

So, funny thing - the guardian doesn't have to make a profit - in fact it runs at a loss (only £30m last year!), but it's backed by the Scott Trust which picks up the tab.
posted by Leon at 9:29 AM on December 12, 2014 [9 favorites]


In Bladenboro, a town of just 1,700 people – 80% white, 18% black – the bitter legacy of the South’s racial history is never far from the surface. The African Americans have a nickname for the place: they call it “Crackertown” in reference to its longstanding domination by the white population. The events of 29 August have become entangled in that historical narrative, inevitably perhaps in a state in which 86 black people were lynched between 1882 and 1968.
How many people have been lynched after 1968? Officially, it's rare. And maybe if there had been President Abbie Hoffmann in 1972 instead of Nixon, you could believe this was true. But it's speaks to the constant mythologizing of the "post" civil rights that people can walk around believing that the endemic racial violence of the US just somehow stopped after MLK died for our sins. If anything, Nixon federalized it: you should never kid yourself that the "drug war" was ever about drugs.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:43 AM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Leon: So I decided to do a search on a US news site that is also run by a trust (Christian Science Monitor): 'No results were found when searching for "Lennon Lacy".'
posted by el io at 9:45 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can believe that the initial investigation wasn't as thorough as it might have been, but like them, I'm not seeing obvious signs of a homicide, even with the abrasions and the oddity about the shoes. I'm not seeing why a lynching would involve re-shoeing someone, for example.

And flowers get disturbed in cemeteries regularly, and the hole next to the grave looks like a collapse of incomplete fill to me.

To have a real criminal investigation you need to have some sort of actual evidence that someone else was involved and present at the crime scene. Frankly, there's a great deal of denial surrounding suicide, and that's even more the case in the black community (although on the other hand, suicide rates are lower among African-Americans; for various reasons, largely assumed to be economic and social in nature, suicide is also colored by privilege).

a US news site that is also run by a trust (Christian Science Monitor)

TBH the CSM is not a full-coverage newspaper. They cover major national news and a number of other top-level stories, like the environment or even racism and inequality, but in terms of hard news they are not comprehensive by any means, especially with precisely this type of largely local story. They are good and can be very narrowly focused but this will be illustrative and intermittent.
posted by dhartung at 9:58 AM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Strangely reminiscent of the death of Kendrick Johnson in south Georgia.

I was going to mention this. It's as if the police in so many places have given up any to pretend they're not racist, despite the statistics and the stories and everything else. Having grown up in the 60s I foolishly thought we had grown past that. I know better now.
posted by tommasz at 10:17 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think a more thorough investigation by an outside agency is definitely warranted,* and I think there's evidence to support at least investigating to see if this was a homicide. That said, I wish the articles didn't lead with talking about how he was so excited to play football and how he didn't seem like he was going to kill himself. That's not great evidence. People are often in denial about depression in their loved ones, and suicidal people don't necessarily present in the ways you'd expect. The physical evidence is much more persuasive; it should be the focus.

*I'm from Eastern NC, and while I'd not say it's "essentially terrible" there are definitely pronounced racial problems that cast doubt on how exhaustive a job anyone in local law enforcement did.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:19 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


dhartung: Would you say that there wasn't any way for him to get up there, no stand that was kicked over, would this be evidence? Would you say that a lack of depression, a lack of a suicide note, and looking forward to the future pointed to 'this is not a suicide'?

Finally, while suicide may be a problem in the african-american community as it is with other communities, how many black men do you think kill themselves by hanging themselves in a public area?

Unless there is strong evidence to suggest otherwise, I think it'd be a good idea for law enforcement to treat every case of a black person found hanging in a public place as a murder.

Your points on CSM are well taken though; I like them as a publication and know that they are not a full-service news organization.

On the other hand the idea that the rest of the media was 'busy' with Ferguson makes it sound like CNN only has 1 reporter, and if he's at one place, they just don't have the resources. Hogwash. (dharthung: I know this wasn't your assertion).
posted by el io at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not seeing why a lynching would involve re-shoeing someone, for example.

I'm completely at a loss as to why a suicide would. A lynching? Well, plausible explanations have been proffered above.

The mechanics of both the hanging itself and the way Lacy was 'cut down' supposedly by a lone woman (with no cuts found in the belts) are plenty suspicious. An investigation is most definitely warranted.

And hey, if you're right, what'll happen? The investigation will find it a suicide, and perhaps answer some of all these questions in a way that doesn't reek of rat. Strikes me as unlikely that that's what an investigation would find, of course...
posted by Dysk at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2014 [11 favorites]


My read on things like the switched shoes and clothes in these various cases is pretty simple. It's a message. It says: Look here (boy) we can kill a black man, make it obvious that things aren't right, and we'll get a complete pass. Nobody's even going to come looking for us. Keep that in mind.

I've had the privilege of being a northern white male who's never lived south of Pennsylvania, but that's the message I see. I'm betting it resonates loud and clear to those it is directed at. I'm glad the FBI is investigating. I suspect they'll find that local cooperation hasn't improved much in fifty years. I hope the response is intensely increased scrutiny until it does. My heart goes out to these communities.

On preview: Bulgaroktonos, I think the article is written that way because it anecdotal discussion of his mood was the basis for the ruling of suicide, so this is anecdotal discussion disputing that.
posted by meinvt at 10:25 AM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


The shoe stealing could have been taking a trophy, or even resentment that he had nicer shoes than the murderer(s). Who knows. That poor kid.

Firstly, yes. That poor kid. It breaks my heart.

But also, yes, I don't think we need any elaborate explanation for this. By far the most likely explanation is that someone stole his shoes for some reason. Maybe they just wanted his shoes. They presumably replaced them in a lame attempt to cover up the theft. There's something stomach churning about the pathetic banality of this.

While the shoe switching does not definitively prove murder, it is strongly indicative of it. The fact that the source of the replacement shoes has never been identified, and the Jordans he was wearing have never been located, or apparently even searched for, is enough in my mind to demonstrate the complicity and racism of the authorities. As if we needed further proof.
posted by howfar at 11:28 AM on December 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


Or he may have been killed or injured somewhere else and transported to the hanging site -- or forced to go to there by his killers -- say, from his girlfriend's house, where he might have had his shoes off when the attack/assault/abduction occurred. So then he's taken to the swingset and killed or strung up already dead to make it look like a suicide . . . except wait, uh oh, look, he's hanging there barefoot or in his socks. That won't look right at all 'cause he wouldn't have walked there without his shoes, would he? Somebody'd better take their shoes off and put them on Lennon.
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:59 AM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't understand the reason for the replacement of his shoes with someone else's.

His shoes were jacked. Bogus shoes were put on, so that at(least at first glance), nobody would think there's anything suspicious here: just another dead black dude.

They were newish, size 12 Jordans. I just can't figure out if the shoes started the crime, or if they were an afterthought.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:19 PM on December 12, 2014


I can believe that the initial investigation wasn't as thorough as it might have been, but like them, I'm not seeing obvious signs of a homicide...

Yeah. 1 leads to 2.

If you don't have a thorough initial investigation, then you see no "obvious signs" of a homicide, which admittedly has a VERY HIGH THRESHOLD.

So yeah, let the investigators ignore their duty, and not do a proper investigation, and we should be calling the "Lincoln assassination" the "Lincoln suicide".
posted by hal_c_on at 12:23 PM on December 12, 2014 [11 favorites]


If the shoes were switched in a simple post-death robbery it doesn't justify a suicide verdict over a homicide verdict, they could have been taken from the body however it got there, so to focus on this as indicative of either situation is misleading. What stolen shoes would suggest is a witness ahead of the official finder of the body, which might at least be worth be pursuing as a source of information. (If there is a murderer then it wouldn't be the first time someone has given themselves away by doing something stupid of course.) The controversy here would seem to be whether there was a overly rapid rush to declare the suicide and whether there was sufficient care taken to consider whether there was any significant possibility of a cause of death other than suicide. Was this decision process rushed? Did it properly investigate? Was sufficient evidence gathered and considered which would justify this outcome? The article seems to suggest that the decision was rushed and may have missed things and if this potential exists then the family deserve to have a wider ranging investigation.

I just can't figure out if the shoes started the crime, or if they were an afterthought.

You can't possibly have the information to decide either way.
posted by biffa at 3:24 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


The family is pretty clear that they don't just want a homicide ruling - they want an explanation for what happened the night of Lacy's death, and the police response of "We'll just never know, but there's no indication of outside involvement therefore suicide" is so clearly unsatisfying. If the police could answer the questions raised with a thoughtful narrative of the night of Lacy's death, there would be a lot more confidence in their investigation.
posted by muddgirl at 3:50 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Trophy taking is part and parcel of lynching, from commemorative photographs to clothing and parts of the body itself.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:51 PM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't know any words that could express my heartbreak over this.
I keep looking at his mother's face, though. Her face says it all.

We have to do something. Something.
posted by Puddle Jumper at 7:54 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


If the shoes were switched in a simple post-death robbery it doesn't justify a suicide verdict over a homicide verdict, they could have been taken from the body however it got there, so to focus on this as indicative of either situation is misleading.

Occam's razor is not always useful or relevant, but it is in this case. The explanation of the facts requiring least assumptions is that the person who switched the shoes also supplied the belts, and also murdered Lennon Lacy. Other explanations are possible, but to select any other explanation, before disproving the most epistemologically parsimonious option, is necessarily negligent and, in context, clearly racist.

Lennon Lacy's death is a tragedy, whatever the explanation. The fact that no proper explanation was even sought, by those whose job is was to do so, is monstrous, callous and wicked negligence.
posted by howfar at 9:20 PM on December 12, 2014 [7 favorites]


howfar: "monstrous, callous and wicked negligence."

Sounds to me like you've described many aspects of the USA perfectly.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:41 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


At the very least all of the cops, from the people who were at the scene all the way up the chain of command to the top, who didn't bother doing any investigation, didn't bother securing any evidence, and who basically guaranteed that there was no evidence should be charged with criminal neglegance or something and banned from police work forever.

If they weren't covering something up they're too damn dumb to be cops.

Personally, and a few years ago I'd have been too ignorant of reality to think this, I'll bet that at absolute minimum one of the people who killed Lacy was a cop and that cop's fellow officers know and were protecting him by destroying the evidence.
posted by sotonohito at 4:58 AM on December 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


"The state medical examiner ruled it a suicide, based on reports from law enforcement and a county coroner. That coroner says he now questions if it was a suicide because of so many unanswered questions the FBI got involved and his ass needs covering."

FTFY, coroner.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:33 AM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Lack of suicide note and generalized hope for the future not only don't rule out suicide, they also make it more likely that people will think suicidal people are blindingly obvious. The shoes are a real clue, but this mental state stuff is frustrating.
posted by corb at 11:49 AM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


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