A day after the FBI announced it would investigate the hanging death of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy in the small town of Bladenboro, NC, protesters on Saturday took to the streets to express their displeasure over the way local authorities have handled the case of the teen whose death was ruled a suicide by police.
After Lacy was found hanging by two belts from a playground swing set near his home Aug. 29, local authorities concluded there was no foul play. But Lennon’s family and local residents were convinced otherwise.
“We know it was a hanging,” NAACP state chapter president the Rev. William Barber II said before Saturday’s march, according to the Washington Post. “But the question is, ‘Was it self-inflicted? Was it a staged hanging? Or was it a hanging or lynching homicide?’”
Lacy’s mother Claudia Lacy was at the front of the mass of marchers on Saturday. She has been pushing for the truth since the August day when her son left the house, excited before his team’s first high school football game of the season, and never returned home.
“When the facts add up,” she said, “I’ll be satisfied.”
Bladen County prosecutor Jon David said in a televised news conference on Friday that the case remains open and he welcomed help from the FBI.
“I’m asking the community to withhold their judgment on what this case is until all the facts are in,” David said.
The historical resonance of a Black boy found hanged has sent a cold chill through the small town of Bladenboro—with a population of 2,000, 80 percent white and 18 percent Black—particularly since Lacy was involved in a sexual relationship with a much older white woman.
The announcement that the FBI was investigating was welcomed news to Lacy’s family members and local leaders, who had been pushing for months for the FBI to come in. In fact, officials from the North Carolina branch of the NAACP spent almost two hours last month with US attorney Thomas Walker in his Raleigh office, according to a report in The Guardian.
The NAACP last month also gave Walker a file containing more than 20 leads that seem to cast doubt on law enforcement’s contention that the 17-year-old killed himself with no involvement from anyone else.
Last month Lennon’s mother said the state bureau of investigators treated her like she was a suspect in the death.
“I feel the SBI investigators interrogated me,” she said. “They were not trying to find out the truth of what happened to my son, they were pushing towards a verdict of suicide.”
The NAACP hired a pathologist to study Lacy’s autopsy, particularly the scratches and contortions on his face that authorities contend were caused by ant bites or through the handling of the body after the postmortem had been concluded.
In addition, the teen was found wearing shoes that were clearly not his—size 10.5 sneakers, nearly two sizes too small, and not his new Jordans.