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'I can't breathe': Black child held underwater and called racial slur by white teen, Massachusetts police say

A 14-year-old was indicted on attempted murder and other charges in what prosecutors said was a racially motivated incident.
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A white teenager was indicted on an attempted murder charge in Massachusetts after he was accused of calling a Black child a racial slur and repeatedly dunking him underwater as the child said he did not know how to swim.

The 14-year-old suspect is accused of taunting the victim on July 19 at Goose Pond in Chatham, court documents said.

Another juvenile, also white, laughed and called the victim "George Floyd," referring to the Black man who died in Minneapolis police custody in 2020, according to the documents.

“Water went into my mouth and my nose and I could not breathe,” the victim said in a written statement to police. “So I shouted out that I can’t breathe over and over and tried to get his hand off me.”

The victim also said that as the teen and the other person continued to pull him underwater, he started to feel lightheaded and almost vomited, according to his written statement and a police narrative. After he began to feel exhausted, he shouted for help.

He said the pair were his friends and had invited him to the pond, so he rode his bike there.

Goose Pond in Chatham, Mass.
Goose Pond in Chatham, Mass.NBC Boston

The teen told the victim to ride the bike into the water, but the victim said it belonged to his older brother, according to the police narrative, which says the charged teenager and the other person then began throwing stones at the victim.

The victim, who could not swim, put on a life jacket and got into the pond, the document says. It says the 14-year-old "continued to throw stones at him and threatened to beat him up."

At one point, the teen grabbed a bigger stone, threatened the victim with it and called him "boy" and the N-word, according to the police narrative.

The taunting continued as the teenager got into the water. The victim told the 14-year-old not to pull him under or wrestle him because he feared he could drown, according to the documents. The teen then grabbed the victim's life jacket and dunked him into the water four or five times, it alleges.

The victim also wrote in his statement that the other juvenile “started laughing and called me George Floyd, obviously making fun of me and showing NO remorse.”

Several people witnessed the incident. A person who helped get the victim out of the water told authorities that he saw the teen and the other person "taking turns" dunking the victim, according to the court documents. He said that when he swam over to the group, the 14-year-old "was sneering and had a grin on his face," the documents say.

Another witness told police that she heard the Floyd comment, and a third witness described hearing the victim scream, "Stop."

The 14-year-old was indicted on charges of attempted murder and assault with a dangerous weapon, the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office announced Aug. 31, calling it a racially motivated incident.

His family could not be reached for comment at phone numbers listed for them, and his attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Typically, the identities of minor suspects are withheld, but authorities released the teen’s name because he is being tried as a youthful offender, which gives prosecutors the option to seek an adult sentence.

NBC News is not naming the teen. Authorities have not released the names or ages of anyone else involved.

It is not clear whether the second person will face charges. The district attorney's office said it can comment on juvenile cases only when the people under indictment are youthful offenders.

The allegations shocked the seaside town about 100 miles southeast of Boston. The town's Office of the Select Board said it was "disturbed and saddened."

"We do not believe that it reflects the true nature of our community, which is diverse and inclusive," the board said in a statement last week. "We condemn all acts of violence, particularly those directed at children. Our thoughts are with the victim and their family, and we are here to support them in any way we can moving forward."

Scott Carpenter, the superintendent of the Monomoy Regional School District, called the allegations "incredibly concerning." He said the 14-year-old and the other juvenile are not enrolled in the district.

"Monomoy continually strives to be welcoming, safe, and inclusive for all. We believe in celebrating diversity, promoting empathy, respecting the dignity of every human being, and fostering understanding among all students, staff, and families," he said. "Acts of hatred and violence are unacceptable, and we condemn any behavior that seeks to harm or marginalize others based on their race, ethnicity, or any other personal attribute."

The teen suspect is being held without bail and is due back in court Wednesday for a pretrial conference.