Had to flee or 'I might be dead,' victim says of racial attack
Cops: 3 white teens put noose around black teen's neck
Booking photo for Matthew Herrmann, 18. (Chicago Police / January 26, 2012)
Joshua Merritt said he had no reason to be suspicious when one of his friends texted him, asking him to hang out with two other teenagers they both knew.
But after Merritt, 17, arrived at the home of one of the boys in Chicago’s East Beverly neighborhood Dec. 23, he realized his friends weren’t simply looking to have a good time.
The three teens, who are white, allegedly put a noose around the neck of Merritt, who is black, and hurled racial epithets at him before one of the boys held a knife to his throat and threatened to kill him, police and Merritt said Thursday.
The teens were apparently upset about Merritt’s relationship with one of the boys’ female cousins, police said.
“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, sitting on a couch in his family’s living room in the city’s Morgan Park neighborhood. “I might be dead.”
Two of the alleged attackers, ages 17 and 18, were charged Jan. 10 with committing a hate crime, unlawful restraint and battery, police said.
One of those teens, Matthew Herrmann, 18, of the 4200 block of West 126th Street in Alsip, was charged as an adult, police said. He is free on bond, according to court records. The 17-year-old was charged as a juvenile.
The third alleged attacker, 16, was charged as a juvenile with committing a hate crime, unlawful restraint, aggravated battery and aggravated assault for allegedly pulling a knife in the incident, police said.
The attack occurred at the 16-year-old’s home in the 1600 block of West 100th Place, police said.
His mother holds an administrative position in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, prompting Cook County prosecutors to request that the case against the boy be handled by the Illinois attorney general’s office to avoid a conflict of interest, said Tandra Simonton, spokeswoman for Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that request is still under review.
Merritt said he and the 16-year-old’s cousin were friends but were not dating. He said he went to the 16-year-old boy’s house after one of the teens invited him over.
Merritt, a senior at Brother Rice High School, said everything seemed normal when he first arrived.
He said he and the others were talking about music before the others started using racist terms, including the N-word, against him.
Then one of the teens approached from behind and slipped a rope fashioned into a noose around his neck, he said.
After getting out of the noose, Merritt and police said he tried to escape, but the others blocked the doors.
“I couldn’t believe that they were doing this,” said Merritt, wearing a maroon Brother Rice jacket over his white shirt and black tie. “I just (felt) trapped inside there.”
The situation seemed to calm down a bit, Merritt said. He said he told the others, “Guys, stop. Please. This isn’t funny.”
That’s when one of the teens put the noose around his neck a second time, he said.