At dinnertime on Thursday, August 28, 2014, 17 year-old Lennon Lacy weighed 195 pounds on a 5’11” frame. He could press 200 pounds at the gym, or his older brother over his head. He worked out every day, was in good physical condition, had wrestled previously and aimed at playing linebacker for the Bladenboro, North Carolina high school football team. On Friday morning, he was dead—found hanging from a swing set blocks from home.
After a quick autopsy, local authorities declared Lennon Lacy’s death a “suicide.” The autopsy results were finally released to the public 45 days later. By then, an investigative team from the North Carolina State NAACP had already started looking at the case. The NAACP team, led by State President Rev. William Barber II, found a number of reasons to question the local coroner’s findings. The NAACP released a report last October, which included the following findings:
- The belt used to hang Lacy was not his.
- More damning, the shoes found near the body did not belong to Lacy. His recently purchased Air Jordans were gone.
- There was no stool or platform found near the body. If it had been a suicide, Lacy would have needed such a stool to climb up to hang himself. The fact that there was no stool, points to the fact that he could not have hung himself.
- Lennon’s mother noticed that the victim’s face had scratches on it, a big knot appeared on his forehead, and his right hand was swollen. Such wounds would have been consistent with those received during a fight.
All of the above point away from a suicide, and towards a homicide. Further, there was no evidence that Lennon Lacy was or had been depressed. Indeed, before he went out for a walk that evening, he had taken steps to clean his football uniform in order to use it the next day. More, the 17 year old African-American man had been dating a recently separated 31-year old white woman, Michelle Brimhall. And in North Carolina, as documented by civil rights organizations in the past, there is a history of attacks on inter-racial couples.
In order to press the United States Justice Department to investigate this case, the NAACP state conference began organizing for a rally in Bladenboro. On Friday, December 12, one day before the rally, the FBI announced that it was finally joining the inquiry in Bladenboro.
On Saturday, December 13, a thousand North Carolinians marched and rallied in Bladenboro for Lennon Lacy. The NAACP were joined by UFCW Local 1208 members from a nearby Smithfield packing plant, as well as members of Raise Up for 15, the fast food workers union. As at the Moral Monday events the NAACP organizes in Raleigh, black and white clergy played a prominent role. And the march was led by Rev Dr William J Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP.
That same day Saturday, in New York City, 60,000 marched against the police killings of Eric Garner, Mike Brown and scores of other unarmed black men. The movement against racist violence continues to grow in cities and towns across the nation. The Lennon Lacy case needs to be added to the list of concerns. There is still much work to be done.