After issues of bigotry raised, NH AG's office joins investigation into boy's injuries
The Attorney General's office has joined an investigation in Claremont after an 8-year-old boy had to be taken to the hospital after being injured from a rope around his neck Aug. 28.
An older teenage boy allegedly hung the boy from a tree by a rope placed around his neck, according to a Facebook post by the boy’s mother.
Cassandra Merlin posted a photo of her son’s injuries with the caption, “So my son is being flown to Dartmouth after a 14 year old kid decided to hang him from a tree. I don’t care if this was a so called accident or not. My son almost died because of some little sh** teenage kids.” (sic)
Claremont police are investigating the incident but because it involved juveniles, Chief Mark Chase told NH1 News he cannot release details of the case.
Chase said in a juvenile investigation 15 years ago, he would simply respond, “no comment” and that would be the end of it. Unfortunately now with social media, the public is looking to blast someone, often without knowing the details of the case, or basing their conclusion on misinformation.
There has been much debate over whether the incident was racially motivated. The boy's grandmother told the Valley News some of the boys had been using racial "epithets." In a Facebook post, the boy's uncle said the family is unsure if it had been racially motivated.
On Monday, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu asked the AG's office to help with the investigation.
“Yesterday on my instruction, the Attorney General’s office sent a team to Claremont to provide assistance," Sununu wrote in a prepared statement. "It is my expectation that local and state authorities will investigate appropriately and I’ve asked for regular updates on how things are proceeding. Hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated in New Hampshire.”
On Tuesday, Claremont police released its own statement about the investigation, saying everyone involved is 14-years-old or younger.
"I want to assure everyone in our community, our neighboring communities, and the nation at large that we take all reports made to this agency very seriously, and will complete our investigations in a thorough and professional manner," Chase wrote in a prepared statement. "Furthermore, if we receive information that a crime has been committed and that the actor was substantially motivated to commit that crime because of hostility towards the victim’s religion, race, creed, sexual orientation, national origin or sex, we will seek remedies through enhanced sentencing laws (NH RSA 651:6) or through civil action which can be taken by the NH Attorney General’s Office (NH RSA 354-B:1)."
Congresswoman Annie Kuster, a Democrat, also weighed in on the investigation Tuesday.
"Like many others, I've been outraged and sickened by the chilling images on social media and in the news of a young boy whose neck has been gouged by a rope," Kuster wrote in a prepared statement. "No parent can look at this photo without feeling a pit in their stomach. The reports that this was potentially a race-based act of violence underscores the need to gain a full understanding of what happened. I'm encouraged that Governor Sununu is offering the resources of the Attorney General's office to the Claremont Police Department to assist in the investigation of this matter. We must be vigilant in always combating hate and intolerance wherever it appears. New Hampshire communities must be safe and healthy environments for all our citizens."
The boy's family has not responded to a request from NH1 News for an interview.