Police announced Monday that they are still searching for the perpetrator of racist graffiti, in a crime that drove a Massachusetts town to the brink of madness.
Last month, a 13-year-old football player awoke to find racist graffiti spray-painted on his house. Additionally, there were allegations that players from Lunenburg High School made derogatory racial comments to players from Worcester South.
The football games for the rest of the season were cancelled. The town held a vigil.
The school itself, the local police, the district attorney, and yes, even the FBI are all investigating.
But so far, they've come up empty.
The local CBS affiliate reported Monday that the Lunenburg police said that there is "no conclusive evidence that anyone on the high school football team is linked to racist graffiti sprayed on the home of a player last month." Police said in part that they are "very confident that a conclusion will be forthcoming."
On Nov 15, Isaac Phillips, a player on Lunenburg High School's freshman team, nicknamed the "Blue Knights," changed schools after racist graffiti was spray painted on his house. Isaac's mom is white and his father is half-black. Isaac's mom said that her son also endured bullying at the school.
The Sentinel & Enterprise reported that Andrea Brazier said "her son's cleats were taken from his locker and water was poured into them before they were placed in a trash can." Brazier also said that someone "slashed the tire on his bike in the parking lot."
There were also allegations related to racial slurs by Lunenburg players directed toward Worcester South players during two games.
Buried in a news story by a local Fox Affiliate gives more detail:
"During the game on Nov. 1, a Worcester coach reported to a referee that a Lunenburg player used racist language toward a Worcester player during the game. The referee questioned the Lunenburg player, and believed that he did not make the remark. On Nov. 4, referees ended the game due to a fight between players. The referees reported that racially insensitive language was used by the Lunenburg players, according to the website." [added emphasis]
The investigation is ongoing, but a statement by the school was made on Nov 22 that read in part,
"Our investigation had determined that Lunenburg players did in fact use the racial slurs in both games. The persons responsible have not been identified, we have concluded that the words were used by our players and our investigation now centers on determining who that was. We have made a lot of progress in the past week and have confirmed that Lunenburg players used those words."
They are hateful words. But they are words. Would there be such an uproar if a player used a derogatory word to describe a cheerleader? What if someone used a racial slur to describe a white person? Would there be a vigil in the town square?
In addition to the statement, the athletic director at Lunenburg High School, Peter McCauliff, gave a personal apology to the players at Worcester South, saying in part,
"I apologize and am truly sorry for the insensitive, hateful, and hurtful words directed at you by members of my football team in our varsity and junior varsity games. I am saddened that you were subjected to such unacceptable behavior while participating in an activity that you obviously love. These two awful events, along with another that occurred in my hometown, have forced my community to recognize that we have a problem that we need to deal with right now...Until we identify the individuals responsible for these acts and can apply the appropriate punishment, we will continue our investigation."
As far as the racist graffiti, that investigation is also still ongoing. The graffiti read:
"Knights don't need n------."
While the hateful grafitti scrawled on someone's house is disgusting and should be taken seriously; does it warrant cancelling the football season, particularly when the perpetrator(s) are yet to be found?
ESPN reported at the time that School District Superintendent Loxi Jo Calmes said in a statement,
"Since the racial harassment investigations are on-going, I am announcing that the remaining football games of the season have been forfeited. The Lunenburg Public Schools continues investigating allegations related to racial slurs by Lunenburg players directed toward Worcester South players. The police continue to investigate the racial graffiti incident."
The article continued,
"The FBI has been called in to investigate the matter, along with the Worcester County District Attorney's office, according to a police department statement."
According to the local CBS Affiliate, the police put out the following statement:
“Based upon our investigation to date, we have not found any conclusive evidence linking any present member of the Lunenburg High school Football team to the hate crime incident reported on November 15, 2013. This statement relates only to the graffiti painted on a resident’s home and has nothing whatsoever to do with any football game related issues that have been investigated by the School District. We take matters such as this type of hate crime very serious. Consequently this investigation is ongoing and we are very confident that a conclusion will be forthcoming.”
In the wake of the police department's statement, the Superintendent also released a statement Monday, which read in part:
"At 3:00 this afternoon we received a statement from the Lunenburg Police Department stating that based upon their investigation to date, they have not found any conclusive evidence linking any present member of the Lunenburg High School football team to the hate crime incident report on November 15, 2013. We hope for a speedy resolution to the police investigation..."
The racist graffiti should be investigated, but without a suspect, it seems to be premature to cancel the season.
It will be interesting to find out where the investigations lead.