Lennon Lacy Death: Was It Lynching? NAACP Demands Federal Probe In Hanging Of Black Teen

Jonathan Vankin

Lennon Lacy was found hanged from a swing set in the tiny town of Bladenboro, North Carolina, on August 29 -- but was his death a modern-day lynching?

Police ruled the 17-year-old high school football player's death a suicide, but the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says it has new evidence suggesting that the cops were wrong when they made what the NAACP calls its "quick call" in the teen's death.

Investigators took just five days to rule out foul play, even though Lacy was found mere hours before an important football game for which his family said he had been practicing and training in single-minded fashion for many weeks.

But police decided that the teen suffered from a devastating depression resulting from the recent death of a beloved uncle. The Lacy family scoffed at that conclusion, saying that though Lennon was sad over his uncle's death, as expected, he showed no signs of an unusually depressed mental state.

In a press conference on Tuesday, NAACP representatives said that Lennon was never diagnosed with any form of clinical depression.

The NAACP has carefully avoided using the word "lynching" as it has conducted its own investigation into the death of Lennon Lacy. But at the press conference, the NAACP reps said there was "a good possibility of a race-based homicide" in the Lacy death.

The NAACP is now demanding a federal investigation into the teen's hanging death because the local police "failed to meet even the minimum accepted guidelines for death scene investigations," according to NAACP lawyer Heather Rattelade.

The sight of a young black man hanged to death in public invokes horrific memories throughout the United States and particularly in the South, where the majority of the 3,446 lynchings of black people between 1882 and 1968 were committed. Of that total, 101 incidents of lynching happened in North Carolina, with black people as victims in 86 of those.

According to skeptics of the police suicide ruling, Lennon Lacy could have been an 87th lynching victim, possibly because he had been romantically involved with a white woman who lived across the street, which according to the NAACP caused "racial animus" toward Lacy among many of his neighbors.

Lacy's girlfriend, Michelle Brimhall, said that the fact that she is 14 years older than Lennon Lacy caused the locals in the town of just 1,700 to "give us trouble," but said she never noticed any racism directed toward the couple due to their interracial romance.

Brimhall said she is certain that Lacy -- who was over North Carolina's age of consent -- did not commit suicide, and that they remained romantically involved until he died.

"I had never had a man treated me as good as he did, and I probably will never find another."