Death Of Black Man Found Hanging From A Tree In Orlando Ruled A Suicide
Authorities have ruled the death of a Black man found hanging from a tree in an Orlando, Florida, park last week a suicide, but his family does not believe he took his own life, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The newspaper reported on Friday,
Nevan Baker, 22, was found dead Sunday about 3:45 a.m. in Barker Park, near Camping World Stadium and the Washington Shores neighborhood, hanging by a rope from a tree, according to [the Orlando Police Department’s] case report — alarming circumstances that his family and many in the Orlando community say deserve increased scrutiny.
- OPD spokeswoman Autumn Jones told the Sentinel last week that “investigation has concluded with the determination of a suicide.”
- However, Sharhonda James, Baker’s mother, strongly disagreed with the conclusion, telling the newspaper: “I’m not done with this situation; it’s just beginning. Nobody’s going to stand for this in this community.”
- She added: “My son didn’t hang himself. I know my child.”
The Orlando Sentinel requested the Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, but the agency said the final report has not been completed. The Sentinel has also requested photos from OPD of the scene and the body, because James said she noticed injuries, including swelling on his nose, bumps on his forehead and a misaligned jaw, when she saw his body in the morgue. The Sentinel does not intend to publish the photos.
- The report notes that Nevan Baker’s death follows a series of hangings of Black people across the U.S. over the summer, all of which were ruled suicides.
This summer across the nation, multiple Black people were found fatally hung in public places, and their deaths ruled suicide by law enforcement. But the concerning circumstances — evocative of the traumatic history of racist lynchings of Black people, including in Central Florida — have prompted activists, families and experts to raise questions.