Woman says hanging incident that injured 8-year-old son was ‘intentional’

ChiccoDodiFC/iStock/Thinkstock(CLAREMONT, N.H.) -- The mother of an 8-year-old mixed-race boy who suffered injuries to his neck after, she says, he was left to hang by a group of youths in New Hampshire told ABC News Wednesday that she feels the incident was "intentional" and that her son was "targeted."

"I don't feel like, you know, an 8-year-old boy being hung could ever be an accident," Cassandra Merlin said. "It doesn't just happen like that."

On Aug. 28, Merlin said her son and 11-year-old daughter, also of mixed race, were playing outside at a friend's house. She said they encountered some teenagers who, she says, threw sticks and stones at her son's legs. She said the three older boys, who were white, also used racial slurs and said "white pride."

"At one point in time, my son said they had called him the N word," she said.

Eventually, her son and the teens started playing. According to Merlin, the teens took ropes from a broken tire swing, put it around their necks one at a time and pretended to hang themselves. She said they then asked her son to do it as well.

When he did, she said, one of the teens pushed him off a picnic table.

"They had left him there to hang while my daughter screamed for help," Merlin said. "The boys that had done that had taken off. They didn't even offer any assistance or anything to him."

His family said he swung back and forth three times before he was able to remove the rope from his neck. He was later airlifted to a hospital. Merlin said she learned about most of the incident from her 11-year-old daughter.

Authorities in Claremont said that they were investigating the incident but that since it involved juveniles 14 years of age and younger they would not be releasing names.

"I want to assure everyone in our community, our neighboring communities, and the nation at large that we take all reports made to this agency very seriously, and will complete our investigations in a thorough and professional manner," the department said in a news release posted on its Facebook page.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said the Attorney General's Office had sent a team to the town of Claremont to assist the police department.

"It is my expectation that local and state authorities will investigate appropriately and I've asked for regular updates on how things are proceeding. Hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated in New Hampshire," Sununu said.

State Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald also said the state Department of Justice was working with the police as well as the Sullivan County Attorney's Office.

The community held a rally Tuesday against racism and in support of the boy. Merlin said police had been trying to reach her today to discuss possible juvenile charges and that she planned to contact them Thursday.

For now, she said her main focus was her children and getting justice for her son. Merlin said her daughter who witnessed the incident was struggling because she attended school with one of the teens. She said her son was saddened, confused and had suffered nightmares but was trying to move forward as best as possible.

"He's over the moon with all of the support that he's gotten from people," she said. "He really appreciates that a lot."

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