A pair of online petitions are demanding an investigation into the death of a Black teenager whose family says he went boating last week with his white friends only to never return home. They both make reference to allegedly inconsistent statements from the friends of Elijah (Nicky) Weatherspoon, an 18-year-old whose body was found Saturday in a river in the town of Mount Pleasant.
“The events leading up to his death are unclear and are being treated as if he was just another black man who couldn’t swim and drowned. When, in fact, he can swim,” Lauren Jackson, who started one of the petitions and said she knew Weatherspoon’s aunt, wrote in part. “The people who were with him have stories that do not match up.”
The other petition addressed “several conflicting stories given to the police on what happened. Some say he decided to flip off the boat, along with another, and a ‘Good Samaritan’ could only save one, but not Nicky, another story was the boat was docked and Nicky jumped off but couldn’t come back up due to his inability to swim, (He was an experienced swimmer) and another story was he panicked while another tried to help him and sank.”
Both petitions claim that the Mount Pleasant Police Department said it will not investigate the case. It was an instance that eerily harkened back to how local law enforcement in rural Georgia did not investigate the death of a jogger. It was only after national media brought attention to the case and multiple prosecutors refusing themselves that Ahmaud Arbery‘s killers were ultimately charged with murder — months after the shooting in broad daylight that critics have called a modern-day lynching.
In fact, Weatherspoon’s death comes at a time when there have multiple suspected lynchings of Black and brown people nationwide amid protests against racism as well as police violence.
Weatherspoon’s family suspects racism is factoring into the Mount Pleasant Police Department’s decision against investigating the teenager’s death.
“This is clearly more than a accident,” one of the petition says before adding that Weatherspoon’s “family believes that because Nicky was black and everyone else was white they are not trying to investigate. An officer questioned as to ‘Why was Nicky on this side of town (Mount Pleasant) ‘Why wasn’t he on his side of town’. Regardless of what side of town he was on, a crime was committed and we seek equal justice.”
The Mount Pleasant Police Department’s social media channels had not addressed Weatherspoon’s death as of Monday morning. A message sent to the department for comment was not immediately returned.
The report about Weatherspoon came days after a noose was found in the garage stall of NASCAR‘s highest-ranking Black driver, Bubba Wallace. That racist imagery associated with lynchings — which is also defined as a mob of people committing a killing — followed a series of suspicious hangings of Black and brown people in recent weeks. A car filled with white men who yelled the N-word at a Black driver and doused her with lighter fluid before setting her face and neck on fire in Milwaukee happened over the weekend, too, showing that these seemingly isolated incidents are linked through their anti-Black agendas.
While Weatherspoon was not killed from being hanged or being intentionally burned, how he died matters in the larger context of the racial uprisings and reckonings happening around the world and especially in the U.S.