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Chicago police allege that 17-year-old high school student Joshua Merritt (pictured) was a victim of a hate crime, with three white teenagers facing charges in the assault.

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Merritt told police that on Dec. 23 he received an invitation to hang out with his friend and mutual associates via text. After arriving at his friend’s home, Merritt said that the three teenagers proceeded to place a noose around his neck and berated him with racist terms. The situation took a harrowing turn when one of the attackers placed a knife to the neck of Merritt, threatening to kill him.

Brother Rice Student Threatened with Noose, Victim of Hate Crime:

Merritt has since spoken out and sat with the Chicago Tribune to discuss the events that took place in Chicago’s South Side.

Reportedly upset over a rumor that Merritt was dating one of the teenager’s female cousins, the situation escalated far beyond being a joke:

I feel they were being serious, and that if I didn’t get out of the house when I did, I might not even be here, Merritt said Thursday. I might be dead.

The three attackers, ages 16, 17, and 18, were charged on Jan. 10 with a hate crime, unlawful restraint, and battery. The eldest, Matthew Hermann of the Chicago suburb Alsip, was charged as an adult. The remaining two face charges as juveniles, and thus, were not named publicly. The youngest of the group was charged with aggravated assault and battery, after it was reported that it was he who brandished the knife.

Merritt said he escaped as a result of one of the attackers being distracted, and while the two eldest of the group were fellow Brother Rice high school alum, he does not hold the school in contempt:

I would just like to say that Brother Rice really does try to instill love for other people and tolerance, and that these people don’t represent Brother Rice.

The Tribune reports that Hermann is currently free on bond.


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