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The lawyer for a white teen in Cape Cod who faces charges for an alleged attempted drowning of a Black boy told the Boston Globe the incident was “horseplaying” that “got out of control.”
A grand jury indicted 14-year-old John Sheeran on charges of attempted murder and assault with a dangerous weapon over the July 19 incident in which he’s accused of repeatedly dunked a Black boy underwater despite the child saying he couldn’t swim.
The alleged victim, who hasn’t been identified, accuses Sheeran of luring him out to a Goose Pond in Chatham, Massachusetts, and trying to drown him while another boy laughed and called him George Floyd. The victim claims Sheeran was his “friend.”
Other teens at the pond have provided witness statements saying a boy in fact said “George Floyd” and laughed as the Black child yelled he couldn’t breathe, according to NBC10Boston, which obtained police statements.
On Monday, Sept. 11, despite facing attempted murder charges, a judge allowed Sheeran to be released into the custody of his father.
The names of the alleged victim and minor witnesses have been redacted. Prosecutors have classified Sheeran as a youthful offender, which allows them to publicize his name. It also means they’re seeking an adult sentence for the 14 year old.
Lawyer: white teen attempted drowning of Black boy “horseplaying”
Meanwhile, Sheeran’s attorney downplayed the severity of the alleged incident, vowing to appeal the indictment.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, attorney Kevin Reddington called the charges against his client “over the top.” He referred to the Black boy’s cries of “I can’t swim,” “I can’t breathe,” and “help,” as horseplaying and said he would appeal the indictment to the Superior Court.
Meanwhile, youth witnesses described the teen’s alleged attempted drowning differently.
The alleged victim gave a statement to police saying Sheeran and his friend “started laughing and called me George Floyd, obviously making fun of me and showing NO remorse.”
A witness who says they swam over to help the boy claimed they saw Sheeran and his friend dunking the boy’s head underwater repeatedly while he was “screaming for help.”
“When I finally get to them they were smirking,” that youth wrote.
Another witness told police “I couldn’t make out the words but I eventually saw them on top of him holding him underwater. I don’t know who said it, but I recall one of them saying “George Floyd.”
KKK activity in Town’s history
The town’s select board and regional school district have released statements expressing their support for diversity and inclusion
“We are disturbed and saddened to learn of the event that occurred earlier this summer between juveniles,” the select board said of the teen’s alleged racially motivated attempted drowning.” It goes on to say, “we do not believe that it reflects the true nature of our community, which is diverse and inclusive. We condemn all acts of violence, particularly those directed at children.”
Notably, a week after George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis in May 2020, a columnist for WickedLocal wrote that the Cape Cod area was once a haven for the Ku Klux Klan.
“Provincetown, Chatham, and Hyannis were the centers of nativist activity. That was a period in our nation’s history when the Klan was growing in popularity across the country. Estimates were that over 100,000 people in Massachusetts were Klan members, Jim Coogan wrote.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 11 hate groups currently operate in Massachusetts. As the teen prepares for a trial over his alleged attempted drowning, the nation continues to reckon with the lingering effects of systemic racism.