3 teens charged with hate crime in choking

January 26, 2012 7:17:21 PM PST
Three teenagers are accused of committing a hate crime against an African-American student at Brother Rice High School. One of the teens is charged as an adult in an incident police call racially motivated.

Chicago police say the suspects used a noose, called the victim the N-word, and threatened him with a knife. Police say it happened December 23, but the victim and his parents did not report it until Christmas Eve.

Matthew Herrmann, an 18-year-old graduate of Brother Rice High School, is now facing felony charges for an alleged hate crime.

Chicago police say Herrmann, along with two other boys, who are 16 and 17 years old, lured an African-American teenager to one of their homes in the Beverly neighborhood and tried to put a noose around his neck while calling him the N-word--all because one of the suspects, according to police, wanted the victim to stop talking to his female cousin, who is Caucasian.

The state's attorney's office confirmed Thursday that the alleged crime happened at the home of one of its administrative employees. The employee is the parent of one of the three accused teens.

The victim and one juvenile suspect are students at Brother Rice.

"The alleged victim, I have him in class, he's a wonderful person. How this stuff happens, given 2012, and given what you do as teachers and parents, I just don't know," said Jim Antos, Principal of Brother Rice High School.

The principal addressed the student body Thursday, condemning the crime, and even though the incident happened off-campus, school officials say this is a serious issue they are now investigating.

"It's disturbing just by the very nature of the alleged crime. It's not what Brother Rice is about, it's not what we stand for, it's not what we represent. We teach our young men to be respectful of all people, and respect all life, and certainly this goes contrary to all of that," said Kevin Burns, Brother Rice president.

The victim's father told ABC 7: "It is disappointing that in 2012 kids still have feelings like this in their heart...the parents (of the suspects) are not teaching children certain thing they shouldn't do."

No one answered the door at Herrmann's house Thursday. Neighbors say he is quiet and is often seen with a racially-mixed group of friends.

The same was true for one of the juveniles charged. Neighbors say the family is quiet, nice, and often have friends -- black and white -- at the home.

"They never go out of their boundaries, police haven't been called. Nothing," said Fred Brisco, a neighbor of one suspect. "It's surprising to me."

"It's surprising to me...I've seen all people walking in and out of there, at any given time," said Dale VanderBloomen, suspect's neighbor.

In the meantime, the Anti-Defamation League is recognizing authorities Thursday, saying in part: "We deplore this apparently racially motivated attack and applaud law enforcement for taking this incident seriously and enhancing the charge."

Police say the victim was not physically injured in the incident.