Authorities Suggest No Foul Play in Mississippi Hanging

P Photo/The Vicksburg Evening Post, Josh Edwards
P Photo/The Vicksburg Evening Post, Josh Edwards
Port Gibson, MS

On March 19, an African-American man was found hanging from a tree in Mississippi spurring fears over the long history of racial strife in the Magnolia State. But by Friday, authorities were reporting that no foul play is suspected in the man’s death.

On Thursday, authorities found Otis Byrd with bedsheets around his neck hanging from a tree 500 yards behind his Port Gibson home.

Despite the worst fears of local residents, though, police now say that evidence suggests that no foul play figured into the man’s death. Authorities are now leaning toward suicide as an explanation in Byrd’s death.

The dead man was last seen alive on March 2. A few days later, his family reported him missing. A week later, Byrd’s body was found in the woods by an officer of the state’s wildlife services.

The specter of a hanging black man shocked the state, and it was only hours until the FBI announced it was also looking into the incident.

Others were also worried over the incident. Mississippi NAACP chapter President Derrick Johnson issued a statement demanding that federal authorities “immediately investigate the hanging death of Mr. Otis Byrd.”

Still, Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas says that a final determination may take some time.

“It could take a week, it could take two weeks, it could take month,” he said.

Local authorities and the FBI expect a preliminary report on Mr. Byrd’s death.

“The community deserves answers,” FBI agent Donald Alway said. “The family deserves answers.”

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