NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — U.S. Navy officials say they are investigating after tied ropes resembling a noose were repeatedly found around a sailor’s living quarters aboard a Norfolk-based destroyer.
Following an inquiry from 10 On Your Side, a spokesperson from Naval Surface Force Atlantic confirmed that a rope “tied in a fashion resembling a noose” was found on “multiple occasions” on a sailor’s rack aboard the USS Laboon (DDG 58).
“It was his rack where the two nooses were found, and then the third one was on the floor by his rack,” said Lt. Commander Jason Fischer, CMP Force public relations officer commander of Naval Surface Force Atlantic, “and he is the only one affected by this.”
The spokesperson added that an investigation began immediately after the rope was first discovered.
Fischer said any acts of racism violates the Navy’s core values of honor, courage, and commitment and the NCIS has taken over the investigation.
“The investigation is underway, so we do not know how they got there, or who put it there, and why someone else was not targeted,” Fischer said.
The ropes were found throughout the month of February. On two occasions, the ropes were found tied to the rack of the sailor onboard. One of the ropes was also found on the deck near the sailor’s rack on another occasion.
The ship has been at the drydock at General Dynamics NASSCO-Norfolk since January and that’s where the incidents with the rope occurred.
Fischer said the sailor, who he would not identify, was given options when this went down.
The sailor was offered counseling, a new area to sleep, and transfer off the ship. He said the sailor’s safety is their top priority, and that it will always investigate reports of misconduct while encouraging sailors to report any signs of behaviors that violate Navy policies.
“He did not take advantage of a transfer off the ship, as far as the other items, I’m not sure what he took advantage of and what he did not,” Fischer said.
The USS Laboon is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that was commissioned in 1995. It was named after Captain John Francis “Jake” Laboon of the Chaplain Corps, known to most simply as “Father Jake.”
Portsmouth NAACP president James Boyd said he is greatly concerned about this act of racism.
“When you have these acts of blatant racism, hatred, and bigotry that happen it is not coincidence this happens in February,” Boyd said. “This is during the month of February where we celebrate black history. It is not accidental this is happening, it is intentional.”
Boyd said he is not totally surprised by these racist symbols left behind.
“We know that institutional racism is in the military, and that is not from James Boyd but from the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin,” Boyd said.
The Navy reports that, at least on the USS Laboon, this seems to be the only incident of this kind.
“These are the only ones, at least in recent history that we know about,” Fischer said.
Boyd said that, as an African American man, he knows what this sailor is going through.
“He is automatically saying I am on the ship, and I do not know who did what, and I do not know if I am coming around the corner if somebody is going to do something that is physically harmful.”
Boyd says the NAVY needs to act swiftly, thoroughly, and get to the bottom of who did this, and if they do to transfer the person who did this out of the NAVY,
“You would hope in this country that progress is the name of the day, and when you have instances like this, it is a stark reminder of where we are in this country.”