CONCORD — No racial taunts or slurs immediately preceded the incident that took place in Claremont two summers ago when an 8-year-old biracial boy suffered injuries to his neck when he was pushed from behind off a picnic table with a rope looped around his neck, state officials said Wednesday.
In a 25-page synopsis of an event that made national news, the office of Attorney General Gordon MacDonald dispels much of the media narrative that grew up around the Aug. 28, 2017 incident.
Social media and news outlets described the event as a near-lynching perpetrated by boys who had been hurling racial slurs at the boy. The report — issued after a New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling allowed its release — is the first official version to become public about the incident. State laws normally prevent public access to juvenile court proceedings.
Prosecutors concluded that the boy himself had looped the rope of a tire swing around his neck, after two older friends had done so and jumped from the picnic table as a prank.
While “Boy 1” likely pushed the victim off the table, the victim was never left hanging.
“I fell down and I didn’t hit the ground for a second and it (the rope) slid across my throat,” the victim told police.
Prosecutors brought Boy 1 to juvenile court on assault and reckless conduct complaints, but they were not deemed to be hate crimes, the report said.
Boy 1 had used some racial slurs in the past, the victim’s sister told investigators. Boy 1 punched the victim earlier in the day because he had warned the older boy’s girlfriend of an impending breakup, and some had directed racist remarks at him. And another young teenager made racial remarks to the victim’s family after the rope incident.
“There is no reliable evidence that any child used racist terminology in conjunction with the rope incident, and no reasonable inference to be made in that regard. Finally, there is no credible evidence that any of the children used the word ‘lynched’ or ‘lynching,’” the report reads. “The evidence does not, therefore, establish probable cause to warrant the belief that Boy 1 was motivated to assault the victim because the victim was biracial. In the absence of that quantum of evidence, the State could not sustain either a hate-crime prosecution or civil rights action against Boy 1.”
To Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase, the report is a long time coming. In an interview, he noted that after the initial event people were demanding details and his department’s response.
“It pained me I couldn’t get up there and explain to the public what happened,” Chase said. At the end of the day, he said, he wants the children involved to grow up to be healthy adults. And he said Claremont has benefited from the matter.
“We were faced with this and started talking, and I think that was helpful to the community,” Chase said.
Investigators interviewed both children and adults with knowledge of the incident. Investigators found that the victim, age 8; his sister, age 11; Boy 1; two other boys and the girlfriend, Girl 1, spent much of the day together.
They played touch football in the morning. At one point, Boy 1 punched and kicked the victim for disclosing his plans to break up with Girl 1.
“The evidence indicates that during the earlier incident, some of the older children taunted the victim and his sister with racist language, such as, ‘Are we too white for you?’” the report reads.
Later, Boy 1 and a 14-year-old boy, Boy 2, both put the rope from a broken tire swing around their neck and jumped from the table, landing on their feet before it could do any damage.
Likewise, the victim put the rope around his neck and stood on the picnic table, his back to Boy 1, who was sitting at the picnic table, the report reads.
“Boy 1 used his hands to push the backs of the victim’s legs, causing him to fall off the table. The victim hung by his neck because his feet could not touch the ground. The rope either slid off the victim’s neck or he untied it,” the report reads.
In drawing their conclusion, investigators weighed several versions. Boy 1 said he never pushed the victim and merely scared him by thrusting his arms in the boy’s direction. The victim initially said it was an accident, then he said Boy 1 grabbed the back of his legs, causing him to fall back when Boy 1 pushed him. Boy 2 said both he and Boy 1 scared the victim by yelling loudly and banging on the table, but no one touched him. A third boy said Boy 1 squeezed the victim’s leg really quickly and did not think the boy would fall.
The girl said Boy 1 yelled and motioned toward the victim, but never touched him. Several said they did not realize the boy had looped the rope around his neck.
The incident made newspapers and newscasts nationwide. The boy, Quincy Chivers, and his family appeared on “The Real,” a daytime talk show where he was comforted by host Tamera Mowry-Housley. Chiver’s sister said that talk show producers met with the family before the show. They encouraged them to tell the truth but “didn’t want us to forget ... the racism.”
A GoFundMe page has raised $53,800 for the family, and investigators noted that Chivers and his family had been invited to visit the boy’s favorite football team and to meet basketball superstar LeBron James.
The report also noted that Chivers’ grandmother gained much of her initial information about the incident from a sister who suffers from dementia. The grandmother, Lorrie Slattery, was one of the initial sources of the story. She also told investigators she got information from the hospital about Chivers swinging three times by the neck, a fact not borne out by hospital records.
The mother at one point discredited the grandmother’s account, saying “the lynching thing” never occurred.
Both the mother and her boyfriend said Boy 2 was rude after the incident, telling her boyfriend to “stop acting like he was black, because he was white.” Boy 2 also told the two he was “white and proud of it.”