After they cut Joseph H. McCoy down from the lamp post, the coroner ruled that death had come by strangulation. There was a gunpowder burn on his face, three gunshot wounds in his chest, and he had been hit on the head with a cobblestone.
Witnesses said the mob had used a battering ram to break down the door of the Alexandria police station, had overwhelmed the police, and carried McCoy off to Cameron and Lee streets, where he was lynched to cheers from the crowd.
No one in the mob could be readily identified. The perpetrators were “person or persons unknown,” according to the inquest.
On Thursday, 123 years after the April 23, 1897, lynching, Alexandria held a virtual remembrance, in which Mayor Justin M. Wilson apologized and promised that the city would never forget.
“The city had planned a large community gathering at the McCoy lynching site … on April 23,” Audrey P. Davis, director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, wrote Thursday. But because of covid-19 restrictions, a virtual ceremony had to be held.
“Over recent years, we have worked very hard to ensure a more just, complete and equal telling of our history,” Wilson said in a video presentation that went with the commemoration. So that “future generations learn from the good and the bad.”
Between 1882 and 1968, Wilson said 100 Virginians were lynched, including 11 from Northern Virginia. They were among 4,743 reported lynchings nationwide during the same period. A second lynching took place in Alexandria in 1889, when Benjamin Thomas was hung on a separate street corner.