Report: Not enough evidence in near-hanging for hate crime

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Nearly two years after an 8-year-old biracial boy was nearly hanged in New Hampshire, authorities say in a report that there’s not enough evidence to charge a 13-year-old boy who pushed him off a picnic table…

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Almost two years after an 8-year-old biracial boy was nearly hanged in New Hampshire, the state attorney general’s office concluded Wednesday there wasn’t enough evidence to show the episode was racially motivated.

The report said the 8-year-old put a tree swing rope around his neck in August 2017, copying the actions of a 13-year-old boy and another teen who had jumped from the table and landed uninjured. When the youngest boy tried it, the 13-year-old pushed his legs, causing him to fall.

The report said the boy hung by his neck, but then the rope either slid off or he untied it. Still, the rope caused “significant abrasions and contusions.” But the report found there was not enough evidence to charge the 13-year-old with a hate crime or a civil rights violation.

Scott Kneeland, a cousin of the 8-year-old’s mother, said Wednesday on Facebook that the family wouldn’t comment on the findings and was “trying to move on with their lives.”

When it was first reported, the 8-year-old’s family called what happened a hate crime and allegations surfaced that several teens had taunted the boy with racial slurs before the 13-year-old pushed him. The parents of one of the teens called it a terrible accident.

Images of the boy’s rope-burned neck were shared widely on social media and prosecutors investigated the case as a potential hate crime. The images sparked outrage across the country and prompted a closer look at racism in the mostly white city of Claremont. Residents gathered and offered their support to the family, the school district examined how to respond to bullying better and a community group was formed to promote equality.

Wednesday’s report acknowledged the 13-year-old shoved the younger boy earlier in the day, and that some of the older children had directed racial language at the boy and his sister.

But it did not find “clear and convincing” evidence that a hate crime took place.

When interviewed by investigators, the 13-year old said he had only wanted to “scare” the 8-year-old. The teen later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor simple assault offense and his case was referred to family court.

“The incident itself obviously made people pay attention to things that are going on and I’m all for that,” the town’s Police Chief Mark Chase, who also is the acting town manager.

Asked about the findings, Chase said the report speaks for itself. But he said it also showed that investigators did their job to “get to the truth.”

“Something did happen. A little boy was injured,” Chase said. “We hope we took the proper steps so that it doesn’t happen again.”


Associated Press reporter Michael Casey contributed to this report.

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