African-American Man Found Hanging From Tree In Mississippi Believed To Be Missing Otis James Byrd

The body of an African-American man hanging from a tree was found by local authorities in Claiborne County, Mississippi, on Thursday. CNN reports that the body may belong to the man who’d been missing since March 2. Law officials had arranged ground searches for the man and found his body hanging in a wooded area not far from his residence.

MS News Now unofficially identifies the man as Otis James Byrd, 54. This is what the Claiborne branch of NAACP has determined in the preliminary investigation. It’s unclear if it was a suicide or if someone murdered him. Coroner J.W. Mallett confirms the body was found hanging from a tree.

Byrd was reportedly last seen when a friend dropped him off at Vicksburg’s Riverwalk Casino almost two weeks ago. He wasn’t heard from since. CNN reports that the NAACP sent an email requesting the U.S. Department of Justice “join the current investigation of the suspicious hanging death of Mr. Otis Byrd.”

As it’s described, there are two different investigations into the case. The African-American man found hanging from a tree is being investigated by both the FBI and NAACP. One is by local authorities into the man’s death and the other by the FBI is to learn if there are any federal civil rights violations. An FBI forensics team is at the scene. The forensics team is there “in part because the bureau has responsibility for federal civil rights law,” CNN writes.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is also involved, according to a statement released by the FBI. More of the organization’s statement is below.

“Earlier in the day, the Claiborne County Sheriffs Department and the Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks conducted a ground search for a man who had been missing since early March. Officers located a man hanging in the woods near Roddy Road a half mile from his last known residence.

The sheriff’s department contacted the MBI and FBI for forensic and investigative assistance. Investigators are currently processing the scene for evidence to determine the cause and manner of death.”

State, local, and national attention is centered on the investigation into missing Otis James Byrd and the possibility that he was the African-American man found hanging from a tree. It wasn’t revealed how long the body had been hanging until authorities discovered it. The man’s body was a half-mile from his residence, which was in Port Gibson.

[Photo Credit: CBS News screenshot]