First, the facts

Protesters jumping over investigators in boy's tragic drowning

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference has every right to demonstrate again in the death of an 8-year-old Hephzibah boy.

We hope they demonstrate a little common sense first.

The organization Thursday rallied with the boy’s mother outside the courthouse in Augusta to find “answers” and “justice” in the “murder” of young Jon Stevens, who was found in a neighbor’s pool April 13.

There are a few problems in those assertions.

First and foremost, there’s not a scintilla of evidence the boy met with any manner of foul play. Full autopsy results await, but a preliminary conclusion was that he simply drowned – in a pool that he had swum in before. Reports indicate the boy had been with several older youths who were clearing the pool of debris prior to his death.

The evidence can change as the investigation continues. But again, at this point there’s nothing that points to foul play. So asserting that he was “murdered” is at the very least premature, and quite possibly completely wrong.

We give the grieving mother a pass on that count. We can’t imagine the depth of her sorrow, and our hearts go out to her.

But for any others, such as the SCLC, to jump ahead of the coroner and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department and say definitively that we’ve got a murder on our hands is completely reckless.

Especially considering that the organization hadn’t been briefed on the investigation before its rally. That briefing is expected Tuesday.

The organization also is fanning the flames of paranoia and distrust, carrying on as if there’s been a civil rights violation or a sinister crime and cover-up before there’s even any evidence a crime was committed.

“We are not going to let a city like this sit idly by and not find out who murdered this young man,” said president emeritus and CEO of the SCLC the Rev. Charles Steele Jr. “We are getting ready to march. We are getting ready to demonstrate. We are getting ready to raise hell and go to jail.”

Absolutely! Just maybe get the facts first.

It might also interest those on the national stage to know that our sheriff is black. So with its civil rights protest approach, the implication of the SCLC is that a black sheriff is throwing a black boy under the bus. And that white employees of the sheriff’s department are just racist enough to do so too.

That’s selling the sheriff and his department a little short, wouldn’t you say?

“Anytime there’s a kid, we pull out all the stops,” one officer told us. “Most of us are parents.”

The further insinuation that Augusta has to be publicly shamed in order to obtain justice – with a “national movement” coming here – is also an incredible insult. We reject such a characterization of our sheriff, his department and our community.

If the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s public statements about this case turn out to be unfounded, as the evidence now suggests, the organization will owe the city an apology.

We can pretty much guarantee it would be accepted. Contrary to the picture painted on Thursday, that’s the kind of community this is.

SCLC rights group seeks 'justice' in Hephzibah boy's drowning

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Sat, 04/29/2017 - 00:27

Rick McKee Editorial Staff