The FBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division are looking into the disappearance of an African-American man who had been missing since early this month and was found hanging from a tree in Mississippi on Thursday.
The victim, identified as 56-year-old Otis Byrd, was last seen on March 2 when a friend dropped him off at Vicksburg’s Riverwalk Casino – approximately 30 miles north of Claiborne County, where his body was discovered.
Authorities aren't sure whether foul play was involved and simply said the death is under investigation.
"We didn't close down any options because we really didn't know what had happened to him," Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas tells the Clarion Ledger. "We can't rule anything out right now."
Derrick Johnson, head of the state chapter of the NAACP, called for a full investigation, adding the group wants to know if the death was racially motivated.
"Considering Mr. Byrd's body was found hanging from a tree, we are calling on federal authorities to immediately investigate to determine whether his death is a result of a racial hate crime," he stated.
The news of Byrd’s death comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of police brutality against African-American men.
“We want to make sure it was not a racial hate crime,” Johnson told the LA Times. “We cannot stand by in 2015 and watch a lynching, if in fact that's what happened.”
The story is developing. Stay connected to Carbonated.TV for more information.