The Evansville Police Department and Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation have identified the students featured in an offensive photo depicting three middle school aged boys appearing to hang a black baby doll. Apparently taken using the social media platform Snapchat, the photo has been seen and shared by thousands of people on social media.
The police department was contacted by a community member around 6:30 on Sunday evening about the racially-charged image, which shows three white juveniles holding a black baby doll with a noose around its neck. One of the juveniles also has a shirt on his head that's oriented in a way that it resembles the hood worn by KKK members.
Working in conjunction with the EVSC, the police department was able to identify the juveniles depicted in the photo as being students of Helfrich Park Middle School. Further investigation revealed that the picture was taken over the weekend at a home outside the city limits, putting it in the jurisdiction of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office, police said.
Even though the city police department is no longer involved in the investigation, the school resource officer was notified Sunday night and was present at the school Monday.
The police department, sheriff's office and EVSC have condemned the vile and offensive photo.
"It's horrible to see. In this day and age with everything we've seen, we would have thought that we educated this out of people," said Sheriff Dave Wedding. "I can't understand why they did it and what their intentions were."
Sheriff Wedding said, at this point, it appears the Snapchat photo wasn't directed at any specific person. Therefore, the case doesn't appear to qualify as being a chargeable offense under the state's harassment or intimidation statutes. That doesn't make the picture any less offensive, Wedding said.
"It was a very unwise post. Because of that post and the serious nature that which most people took from that post, we were looking into it to make sure these people don't have issues," Wedding said. "I hope the parents intervene and this is a good example that parents need to talk to their children more about the use of social media and the things they post."
Local community activist Rev. William Payne characterized the photo as disgusting, saying broader conversations need to be had across the community when it comes to race.
"This was another blow to us trying to unify our community. These kids were in middle school. That is not just something you pick up," Rev. Payne said. "For me, if people sat back and they do not address it and they become silent about these issues such as racism in our community then you actually become a silent endorser of injustice."
Some on social media have speculated that the photo was a re-creation of a music video recently released that depicts a white child being hanged. However, it is unclear if the music video influenced the Snapchat photo.
"Even though I heard they said it was a re-enactment of some type of music video, the music video is wrong and to re-enact it is even worse," Rev. Payne said. "Unless we are willing to have a very honest dialogue and conversation about these different types of racist issues and situations presented in our city, then we’re not going to be able to get to the bottom of anything and change will never come.”
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