New Hampshire Gov. Christopher Sununu called on his state attorney general this week to help police in the town of Claremont investigate a possible hate crime involving an 8-year-old biracial boy who reportedly had been the target of racial slurs. Some of the relatives of the injured child—who is partly of African-American descent—are claiming he was the victim of an attempted lynching.

According to The Huffington Post, the grandmother of Quincy Merlin said that one day in August he was playing with neighborhood teenagers who began using racial slurs and threw rocks at him.

Quincy’s mother, Cassandra Merlin, gave this account in an interview with The Root:

“There was a tire swing at the back of this house, and one of the kids had broken the tire off the swing and the rope was hanging,” says Merlin. “The older boys had put the ropes around their necks, and they told Quincy that it was his turn to do it. And Quincy got up on the table and put the rope around his neck, and another kid came up from behind him and pushed him off of the picnic table. And they walked away and left him there hanging.”

Merlin says that Ayanna [Quincy’s sister] began screaming for help and described Quincy kicking his feet, grabbing at his neck and turning purple before he ended up dropping to the ground.

The child was transported via helicopter to a nearby hospital, where he was put in a neck brace and given oxygen. He suffered no permanent physical damage. The grandmother, Lorrie Slattery, said in an interview with Newsweek on Tuesday that the police did not do much until a photo of Quincy’s neck was posted by his mother on her Facebook page and went viral.

“Now they’re investigating,” Slattery said. “On the day it happened, the police officer went around and spoke to the boy [believed to be the ringleader] and then came back to my daughter and said, ‘the child said it was an accident; there’s nothing we can do.’ It was the media who opened their eyes and got them to do an investigation.”

The police told Newsweek that this account is incorrect. Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase said, “All I can really confirm is that we sent officers to the initial investigation. We have line-level officers that respond initially. When it’s a serious investigation, we assign it to our criminal investigation. I assigned a regular police officer, we got the facts, and then the detectives took over immediately. From the get-go, we’ve believed this was a serious incident. I know that as the police department, we’ve regarded it as serious.”

The Root reports that Chief Chase showed up at Merlin’s boyfriend’s home Monday, after the story went viral, saying that police were “doing the best that they can”:

She [Merlin] says that when she initially spoke to Chase at the hospital, the police chief said he would recommend family court and that Merlin would not be able to attend the hearing because the young man accused is a juvenile.

“They said they were just going to suggest juvenile probation. I said, ‘How about some mandatory therapy?’” Merlin asks incredulously.

Chase has also faced criticism for an interview he gave Sept. 7 in which he said of the perpetrators, “Mistakes they make as a young child should not have to follow them for the rest of their life.”

According to The New York Times:

On Tuesday, Gov. Christopher Sununu instructed the state attorney general to assist Claremont police in the investigation. “It is my expectation that local and state authorities will investigate appropriately and I’ve asked for regular updates on how things are proceeding,” he said in a statement. “Hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated in New Hampshire.”

The attorney general, Gordon J. MacDonald, announced that the Department of Justice had contacted the Claremont Police Department and the Sullivan County Attorney’s Office regarding the matter. “To the extent that there is any credible information that this incident constituted a hate crime or a civil rights violation under New Hampshire law, the office is prepared to take any and all appropriate action,” he said.

“I want people to know about this; I don’t want it to be hushed down and people acting like it never happened,” Merlin told The Root. “And I want Quincy to know that they’re not going to get away with it. And he doesn’t have to walk down the street in fear. I can’t even let him leave the house by himself now. And that’s really sad because he used to love to be able to do things.”

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