Police are investigating an incident in which an 8-year-old boy was reportedly hanged by a rope from in a tree in Claremont, New Hampshire. The boy was flown to an area medical center for his injuries. (Warning: The pictures below are graphic.)
"So my son is being flown to Dartmouth[-Hitchcock Medical Center] after a 14 year old kid decided to hang him from a tree," wrote mother Cassandra Merlin on Facebook. "I don’t care if this was a so called accident or not. My son almost died because of some little s**t teenage kids."
Lorrie Slattery, the child's grandmother, told Valley News the incident occurred around 5 p.m. on Aug. 28, when he had been playing with a group of teenagers in the family's neighborhood.
She claims the teens started throwing rocks and sticks and yelling racial slurs at the boy, who is biracial.
Slattery says she heard the term "lynch" used, though neither she nor any other adults personally witnessed the incident.
Slattery told Valley News the boy was spoken to by an interviewer who specializes in child abuse to get more information about the incident. It is still not clear whether the boy voluntarily put the rope around his neck or if he was forced.
According to Slattery's recount of the interview, the boy swung back and forth by his neck three times before being able to remove it himself. At no point did the teens offer help.
The incident was first reported by the boy’s 11-year-old sister, who was in the backyard at the time. She told Merlin what happened.
Because there are minors involved, Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase is limited in what he is allowed to say about the incident. NH1 reports that juvenile cases are usually less focused on punishing for behavior and rather correcting it.
"These people need to be protected," said Chase, referring to the minors.
NH1 reports that when asked if that meant no further information would be released regarding the incident, Chase replied "that would be accurate."
While some have referred to the incident as a potential hate crime, not everyone is so sure. NH1 reports that the boy's uncle, Lyrik Martin, took to Facebook in response to the speculation.
"We don't know if it's because he's biracial," he wrote on Aug. 29. "That was just what I thought about given the state of things recently."
Both Merlin and Slattery have stated they believe the incident was racially motivated.
"It truly saddens me that even in a city so small, racism exists," Merlin wrote on Facebook, according to New York Daily News. "My son used to love being able to go to the park with his older sister and shoot some hoops! Now, he's not even allowed to go outside without me. It sad that in a city we considered to be safe, we aren't safe at all."
"If it was an accident, that boy or anybody there wouldn't have left him," Slattery said to Valley News. "I believe it was intentional."