Suicide is extremely difficult to accept — but even more so when the circumstances don't add up. When black teenager Lennon Lacy was found dead from an apparent hanging in August, North Carolina authorities ruled it a suicide, but his mother believes the cause of death was something far more sinister — believing his death stemmed from the racial tension surrounding her son's relationship with a white woman. Now, the FBI is reviewing Lennon Lacy's alleged suicide and the investigation that followed, which Lennon's family believes covered up the real cause of death.
After Lennon's death was ruled a suicide, his family, with the help of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, asked the FBI to step in and conduct a review of the local investigation. Thomas G. Walker, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, and district attorney Jonathan M. David requested the help of the FBI. David said at a news conference in Elizabethtown, North Carolina:
My motivation in getting the Federal Bureau of Investigation involved is to provide an avenue to get information, which is going to be critical to my determination and that of my team in deciding exactly what happened in this case.
When Lennon headed out for an evening walk on August 28, it would be the last time his family saw him alive. The next morning, Lennon was found hanging from a swing set frame in a trailer park. After an investigation by law enforcement and state authorities, North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Deborah Radisch ruled his death a suicide. His mother refused to accept the ruling without further proof.
Lennon's mother believes that Lennon may have been lynched, and it's not just maternal instinct. According to CNN, who spoke to Lennon's mother and pathologist Christena Roberts, who the NAACP hired to look into the case, there are glaring holes in the medical examiner's report. Roberts' review revealed that the 5'9" Lennon was found hanging from a swing set frame that was 7'6," with no swings or objects at the scene that the teen could have used to climb up. The review revealed another alarming detail:
Dr. Radisch also noted that she was not provided with photographs or dimensions of the swing set. Without this information, she would be unable to evaluate the ability to create this scenario.
Yet, Dr. Radisch had ruled Lennon's death a suicide.
What's more, the belts used to construct the noose did not belong to Lennon, his mother says. Nor were the shoes he was found wearing. Lennon's brother told CNN that he left the house wearing size 12 Nike Air Jordans but was found wearing size 10.5 Nike Air Force sneakers, and his Air Jordans have not been recovered. Despite these questionable circumstances, local authorities were firm in their assessment of suicide. That's perhaps the most troubling detail in the case.
The NAACP's review noted that even the state medical examiner wanted to investigate further, but was overruled by the local authorities.
Dr. Radisch noted that her determination of (manner of death) in this case as suicide was based on the information she was provided by law enforcement and the local medical examiner. She would have likely called the (manner of death) 'pending' while awaiting toxicology and investigation but the (local medical examiner) had already signed the (manner of death) as suicide.
Beyond the physical details of the death, there was possible racial motivation for Lennon's death. The black 17-year-old had been dating 32-year-old white woman Michelle Brimhall (the age of consent in North Carolina is 16). Some of Lennon's friends believe that many of the town's residents were not happy with the interracial relationship.
Lennon's friend Justin Jones told the New York Daily News, "Someone killed him ‘cause he was dating an older white woman."
Brimhall has gone into hiding since Lennon's death.
As of now, there are more questions than answers in the death of Lennon Lacy. Nevertheless, the local law enforcement and medical examiner have deemed it an open-and-shut case of suicide. It's understandable why Lennon's mother would want to probe further.
Rev. William J. Barber II, the president of the North Carolina NAACP, told the New York Times:
There are just too many questions out there that are unanswered. This mother, this family, this community deserves a full investigation, not a rush to conclusions.
This Saturday, hundreds of people marched in Bladenboro, near the scene of Lennon's death, in honor of the teen and in protest of the local investigation. Some held up a very familiar sign: Black Lives Matter. Lennon's case may differ from that of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but how much? It's possible that the North Carolina teen was yet another example of racial targeting and another black life ignored by law enforcement.Images: CNN