NICHOLAS COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – State Police in Nicholas County have confirmed they are starting an investigation into a possible hate crime that occurred against a Wyoming County basketball player.
State Police Summersville Detachment said the investigation started today. They do not have any suspects at this time.
Stay with WOAY News for further updates on this developing story.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Police are investigating what a prosecutor said was a racist drawing that was posted at a southern West Virginia high school and targeted a biracial basketball player from a rival team.
West Virginia State Police spokeswoman Capt. Shallon Oglesby said in a statement that the investigation into last week’s incident at Wyoming East High School is ongoing. The statement referred further questions to the Wyoming County prosecutor’s office.
A drawing of a stick figure with a rope around it’s neck and the player’s name written on it was found in the visitor’s locker room at Wyoming East prior to a game last Friday with arch-rival Westside High School, Wyoming County Prosecutor Michael Cochrane said Thursday.
Cochrane said it’s too early to refer to the incident as a potential hate crime, adding he believes the state police investigation will be “looking at it from all aspects.”
“A lot of people are like, ‘oh my goodness,’” said Cochrane, who was appointed prosecutor in 2013. “We haven’t experienced anything as far as a hate crime as long as I’ve been a prosecutor.”
Wyoming East and Westside are the only public high schools in Wyoming County, which has a population of about 21,000. According to the U.S. Census, less than 1% of the county’s population is black.
Wyoming County schools Superintendent Deirdre Cline said Thursday the county board of education has turned its investigation over to state police. She said in a statement the county school system has zero-tolerance for any form of bullying or harassment.
“Wyoming County Schools values every student!” the statement said.
In an interview, Cline said the source of the drawing isn’t known.
“To have this deplorable situation put us out there in any kind of spotlight, it’s just hard to bear,” she said. “But we’re resilient and we’re going to hopefully get to the bottom of it and be better for it in the long run.”
Cochrane said his office has recused itself because members of his staff have children who attend both schools. He said he’s asked that a prosecutor from another county handle any potential criminal case.
WYOMING COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – A possible hate crime is under investigation by state police in Summersville after a basketball player found a stick figure with his name on it hanging from a noose.
Prosecuting Attorney Mike Cochran tells WOAY that “I feel our prosecutor’s office is one of the best in the state of West Virginia and the results of vigorous successful prosections speak for themselves. We currently have staff prosecutors and assistants with children who attend Wyoming East and based upon our very congenial conversations with Erica Colucci, we agreed to have a specially assigned state trooper from out of county investigate, and another prosecutors office assigned from another county.”
Cochran goes on to say, “We told Erica we will continue to support her in this investigation, and this office will always remain open to her if we can be of further assistance.”
Jace Colucci is a Westside High School student who was playing against Wyoming East last Friday. When Jace went to the visitor’s locker room, he observed a stick figure with his name on it, hanging from a noose.
Stay with WOAY News for further updates on this story.