May 1, 2015
Last summer, on Aug. 29, a woman found African-American high school senior Lennon Lacy hanged from a swing set in a predominantly white trailer park.
It has been nine months, and it is still unclear what happened to Lennon.
“Lennon’s the only one who can tell the story of what happened to him,” said Bonner Center for Community Service & Learning Director James Shields.
Back in August, Lacy’s death was ruled a suicide. Since then, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun an investigation of Lacy’s case.
“The FBI is waiting on the results,” said Lacy’s aunt Portia Shipman in a phone interview with The Guilfordian. “They’re working closely with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.”
There is talk of the Bladenboro police force handing over the case to the FBI.
“If I was still on the job, I would think it would warrant a little more investigating,” said Associate Professor of Justice & Policy Studies Will Pizio, a former New York police officer.
Several mistakes have been made throughout the case, such as allowing the woman who found Lacy to cut him down, not taking photographs of the crime scene and not collecting any forensic evidence.
Lacy’s hands were not bagged to preserve DNA. No one questioned why he was wearing shoes two sizes too small that did not belong to him.
According to Pizio, there are a couple of ways the police could have made mistakes throughout Lacy’s case.
“One option is they were incompetent,” said Pizio. “The other option is that they purposely did it, (and the third) is maybe that’s exactly what they thought it was.”
Because the evidence is gone, it is hard to know whether Lacy’s death was a suicide, as police reports say, or a homicide, as many in Bladenboro believe.
“It’s hard to know what the next steps are if evidence was tampered with or mishandled,” said Shields. “There may be a limit to what can be done just because we don’t have the evidence.”
For many in North Carolina, Lennon’s death is a reminder that lynchings may still happen in America.
“It’s very sketchy,” said Shields. “(It’s) scary to think as a black man in America that you could still get lynched. A lot of us thought those days were over.”
It is a reminder of the racism that still exists in America as well.
“If you’re still deeming lynchings a possible suicide, that’s racism,” said senior Noelle Lane. “If it’s inconclusive, it’s inconclusive. It’s not suicide.”
Since August, Lacy’s family has been active in getting the word out.
“We do a (social media) blast about Lennon (on) the 29th of every month,” said Shipman. “His brother, Pierre, is getting everything out there. The more people see it, the more it’s out there.”
Last semester, five Guilford students went to Bladenboro to meet with Claudia and Pierre Lacy, Lennon’s mother and brother.
“We’ve talked to students on campus who hadn’t heard of Lennon Lacy,” said senior Lacrisha Kaufman. “We’re just trying to spread the word.”
The next step is to reform the police force to insure that all investigations are properly conducted.
“We have to look at ways the police are investigating themselves,” said Shields.
Perhaps the police are not the entire problem.
“Are there racist police officers?” said Pizio. “Of course there are. Are they the minority? Of course they are. The system is more problematic than racist police officers. If you look at the 60’s to now, we’ve made fabulous ground. Are we halfway there? I don’t know.”
Shipman and the rest of the Lacy family welcome any students who want to help.
“Support the family as much as they want to be supported,” said Shields.