Navy Investigating 3 Instances of 'Hate Symbols' Aboard Destroyer

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) prepares to pull into Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Laboon (DDG 58) prepares to pull into Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, July 16, 2021. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua D. Sheppard/U.S. Navy photo)

Navy officials say that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has taken over the investigation into three knots resembling nooses that were found on and around a sailor's bunk aboard the destroyer USS Laboon in February.

Lt. Cmdr. Jason Fischer, a spokesman for the commander of Naval Surface Force Atlantic, confirmed to that the ship's crew found "rope tied similar to a slipknot" on or near a sailor's bunk in three instances during the month of February, seemingly meant to send a message to that sailor. 

According to the Navy, on two occasions, "a small rope tied in a fashion resembling a noose"  was found tied to the bunk itself, and on one occasion it was found on the floor nearby in one of the living quarters of the Norfolk, Virginia-based ship.

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Fischer said that the Navy is treating the objects as "hate symbols" and "began an investigation immediately after the rope was first discovered." That initial effort was led by the ship's own sailors but has now been handed off to the Navy's federal law enforcement agency.

Navy Times was the first outlet to report on the ropes.

Fischer said that the leadership aboard the ship took immediate action after the first knot was discovered.

Cmdr. Henry Eshenour, the ship's commander, "addressed the wardroom, he addressed the Chiefs mess, first class mess, he held an all hands call ... to address expected conduct on board and to convey zero tolerance for racist or extremist behaviors or symbols," Fischer said, adding that "it's been a regular drumbeat since then."

But after that initial address, two more ropes tied with knots resembling nooses have appeared near the sailor's bunk.

Fischer also said that the sailor who appears to be the target of the ropes was offered transfer to another ship but declined.

The Navy declined to provide the name or race of the sailor who was targeted by these acts, citing privacy concerns.

One complicating factor for the investigation is that the Laboon was in drydock during all three incidents. Whenever any ship is undergoing a maintenance period, various personnel and contractors are permitted aboard to conduct all the work required.

Incidents like this are rare but not unheard of in the Navy. In 2021, a sailor admitted to hanging a noose in a fellow shipmate's bunk aboard the cruiser USS Lake Champlain. 

In 2017, a noose was found in a similar environment to the Laboon -- at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Navy Times reported that, after three months of investigation, the Navy failed to turn up any answers. 

"Any symbol or act of racism obviously violates our core values of honor, courage and commitment, and reports of such symbols are investigated thoroughly because it has no place on the ship. It has no place in the Navy," Fischer said.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.  

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