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.