Exactly one month after Lennon Lacy, a 17-year-old black male, was found hanged from a swing set in a predominantly white trailer park in Bladenboro North Carolina, more than 100 people stood with the Rev. William Barber and the NC NAACP on Monday night to demand a full investigation into Lucy’s death, which was ruled a suicide by police.
The gathering, officially deemed a “mass community meeting and memorial service for Lennon Lacy,” served also as a message to law enforcement officials, including District Attorney Jon David, that the Bladenboro community and the NAACP will not be content with the investigation until they have answers to all of the questions that remain regarding Lacy’s death.
“Don’t ask these parents just to bury a 17 year old and act like it’s normal and it’s all right, and do not chastise them for raising the right questions!” Barber said speaking to the crowd gathered in Bladenboro’s First Baptist Church. “All they want is the truth!”
Following Barber, the Lacy family’s attorney, Allen Rogers, unpacked the “right questions” Barber mentioned in his speech, which was largely directed at the noticeably absent district attorney.
According to Rogers, investigators have not questioned the ex-husband of the white woman in her 30s Lacy was seeing before his death. Investigators haven’t been able to provide a reasonable answer for where scratches on his body came from. And they haven’t been able to answer any questions regarding the flow of traffic in and out of the trailer park between the hours of 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., the time during which Lacy is believed to have died.
Though Lacy’s body was found on Aug. 29, police have yet to release an autopsy.
“We don’t have the power nor the skills to review the death claim, so we must rely on law enforcement, and we must ensure that law enforcement does not come up with a predetermined answer and then move to ensure that the facts meet that particular answer,” Barber said. “Instead, there needs to be an objective review and a thorough investigation.”
Though many of the speakers at the service, including Barber, conveyed their message to investigators using scripture and biblical passages about truth and the importance of people in positions of authority doing right by the people, Barber didn’t shy away from taking a more direct approach as well.
Barber spoke about how one of the reasons the NAACP was founded was to stop lynchings, and while he was careful not to say that is what happened to Lacy, he made sure to raise the possibility.
“The image of a black man or boy hanging by a rope is etched in the souls of all of us,” Barber said. “It’s in the DNA of America. And in 2014, we’re not accusing anybody. Our greatest prayer and hope is that this was not a lynching … We’re not suggesting what happened. Nobody knows, and that’s why there has to be a deep investigation. But you have to understand that the history of racism breeds distrust.”
Barber commended David for vowing to continue the investigation, but he did so in a fashion true to the atmosphere of the meeting—never angry, but justifiably stern.
“We at the NAACP take DA David at his word, but we must also verify,” Barber said. “Trust has to start somewhere, and we’re saying to the DA: We will trust your word, but we will verify your works.”
No uniformed police officers were present at the meeting. Bladen County Sheriff Prentis Benston, however, attended.