On Tuesday, a detective with the West Midlands police in central England announced amid growing community concerns that authorities are not excluding the possibility that the death of a 14-yar-old Black boy may have been racially motivated after initially saying there was “nothing to suggest” the boy’s death had anything to do with race.
“We are aware of many different rumors circulating about the motive for the murder but we are keeping an open mind and pursuing all lines of inquiry. We ask people not to speculate on social media,” Detective Chief Inspector Stu Mobberly said in a statement issued Tuesday evening.
On Monday, May 31, a 14-year-old boy, now identified as Dea-John Reid, was chased down by a group of people on College Road. He was stabbed in the chest on the busy road in Kingstanding, north Birmingham. The teenager collapsed on the road and died at the scene.
Authorities believe the boy was involved in a fight that broke out prior to the stabbing. Reid had reportedly been playing soccer before the clash. Mobberly also said that racist language directed at Reid was used before the murder was committed.
“As the investigation has progressed we now believe there was an incident involving Dea-John and his friends shortly before the murder. That quickly escalated, resulting in Dea-John’s tragic death,” he said.
“During this precursor incident racist language was directed at Dea-John and his friends; that’s now being investigated.”
According to The Guardian, the racist language included the N-word. A witness said the group descended on the boy “like a pack of wild animals.”
West Midlands ambulance service sent two ambulances to the scene which arrived with five minutes of the first emergency call at about 7:35 p.m. but said “nothing could be done” to save the boy.
Authorities believe as many as seven suspects fled after the boy fell to the ground. Six males have been arrested on suspicion of murder. The suspects range in age from teenagers to men in their thirties.
A 33-year-old man was arrested in Kingstanding, while a 13-year-old was detained in Wallsal. A 38-year-old and a 14-year-old boy were arrested from a vehicle in Cheshire, while two men, ages 35 and 36, turned themselves in at different police stations.
“We’ve made rapid progress on the investigation so far and these arrests are a significant step forward,” Mobberly said. “Our officers have executed a series of warrants in the region and we’ve worked with police forces outside the area to apprehend suspects.”
After the stabbing, two groups of young people clashed in front of police near a station. The groups were separated by authorities and some were put in handcuffs but no one was arrested.
Police voluntarily referred the case to police watchdog Independent Office for Police Conduct after reviewing prior cases involving the victim. According to The Guardian, Reid did not have a criminal record.
In a statement, Reid’s family called him “an incredibly talented young boy” and thanked the public “for their outpouring of love and support.”
Joan Morris, Reid’s mother, said, “I miss my son, he was a lovely kid,” as she stood at the location of her son’s death during a tribute. “I can’t live without him.”
All of the suspects remain in custody, and police said they are continuing to assess new information at it becomes available.