UPDATED: 5:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 9 —
Law enforcement officials in Georgia have determined that the cause of death for a Black teenager found hanging over the weekend was suicide. Omari Bryant‘s family has maintained that the 18-year-old was not suicidal. However, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said there was no evidence of foul play, local news outlet WALB News reported.
Bryant was found in front of a motel in Homerville early Saturday morning.
Friends, family and community leaders were calling for an independent investigation into the “suspicious” hanging of a Black teenager who was found dead over the weekend. Omari Bryant’s body was hanging in front of a motel early Saturday morning in the town of Homerville and people close to the 18-year-old are doubting the cause of his death is suicide.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is conducting an autopsy on Bryant to determine the exact cause of death. However, the top law enforcement department in the state will not be investigating Bryant’s death. That will have to be left up to the Homerville Police Department.
In the meantime, lawyers representing Bryant’s family were calling for the GBI to get involved.
“In addition to conducting our own investigation, we are calling for the GBI to conduct an independent investigation into this suspicious death of a young man loved and respected by his family and community,” Francys Johnson, a partner with the Davis Bozeman Johnson Law firm and former Georgia NAACP president, said in a statement emailed to NewsOne.
The circumstances surrounding Bryant’s death raised suspicions.
A graphic photo supplied by the Davis Bozeman Johnson Law firm shows Bryant with a noose around his neck in front of the Southern Pines Inn. The photo can be viewed by clicking here. However, Bryant’s feet appear to be touching the ground, conditions that would render any hanging attempt futile.
In addition, none of the six surveillance cameras outside of the Southern Pines Inn were working Saturday night. Had they been operating, the cameras would have recorded what happened.
Notwithstanding, Bryant’s family and close friends said that he never would have killed himself, and certainly not in the manner in which he was found.
“I think it’s something behind the scenes about this,” Octavis Butler, who went to high school with Bryant, told local news outer WCTV.
Another friend, Jocelyn Walker, said Bryant was not suicidal and would not want that kind of attention in life, let alone in death.
“He wasn’t somebody that would do something like this and put himself on display,” Walker told WCTV. “He wouldn’t want nobody looking at him in that kind of situation.”
A candlelight vigil is being planned for Tuesday night at the Southern Pines Inn.
WCTV also reported that Bryant was recently charged with felony stabbing charges for allegedly attacking two people. He was released on bail just two days before he was found dead.
Bryant’s death is the most recent in a troubling series of Black men found hanging across the country this year.
DeAndre Roberts, a 32-year-old father of 8, was found hanging in Grand Junction, Colorado, on Sept. 21. A GoFundMe account said, “Before the investigation was even complete, the police and coroner ruled it a suicide, even though there are several avenues that have not been pursued with the Investigation.”
In late June, Amani Kildea was found hanging in New Jersey. According to an online petition, Kildea had everything to look forward to, including beginning college in Virginia and aspirations toward a career in federal law enforcement for which he had already laid a strong foundation. It was unclear why the death of Kildea — who was part of a social media-based group that identified and publicly outed the names of pedophiles — went “without investigation” and “was ruled a suicide,” according to the petition.
Earlier that same month, two other Black men just happened to be found hanging before their deaths were ruled suicides.
On June 10, 20-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanging from a tree near Palmdale City Hall in California. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Department said that Fuller’s death appeared to be a suicide.
One day earlier, 27-year-old Dominique Alexander was found dead by a passerby near the Hudson River in New York City. He was also hanging from a tree. Authorities ruled his death a suicide.
In late May, Malcolm Harsch was found hanging in California about 50 miles away from where Fuller died. The 38-year-old was hanging from a tree near a homeless encampment.
In response to the series of hanging deaths of Black men, one social media user tweeted in June that “These hangings are not suicides.”