A Piedmont Park hanging is causing waves on social media, with police saying that a black man found hanging from a tree in a known meeting place of the KKK was actually the victim of a suicide.
Police were called to the Atlanta park at close to 5 a.m. on Thursday for a report of a dead body hanging from a tree. But within hours police said the dead man, who has not yet been identified, had committed suicide.
In a statement published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, police said there were no signs that the man found hanging in Piedmont Park was murdered.
“GI units responded to the scene. There were no discernable signs of a struggle or foul play. The scene was consistent with a suicide. Fulton County Medical Examiner Hagar responded and concurred that the death was consistent with a suicide. Hagar assumed custody of the as yet unidentified body.”
But those on social media were not so quick to buy the explanation. There were many reports from those living in the area that the KKK had been in and around the park the day before the man was found dead. Others noted that the KKK was handing out flyers trying to recruit local residents into the group.
The Piedmont Park hanging comes in the wake of two other controversial killings, both at the hands of police. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, earlier this week, police shot and killed Alton Sterling, a black many reportedly selling CDs in a convenience store parking lot.
Video of the shooting showed police pinning Sterling to the ground during a struggle. At least one of the officers yelled that Sterling had a weapon, prompting police to fire several shots into the man’s body, killing him.
That shooting was followed on Thursday by the killing of Philando Castile in the St. Paul, Minnesota, suburb of Falcon Heights. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, recorded the aftermath of the shooting, showing a bloodied and dying Castile while Reynolds pleaded with the officer to explain why he had shot Castile.
“Stay with me,” Reynolds said to the dying Castile. “We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back and he’s covered … they killed my boyfriend. He’s licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket and he let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm.”
Many people noted the connection between the two police shootings and the Piedmont Park hanging.
Others noted that police appeared unusually quick to declare the Piedmont Park hanging a suicide, and without releasing information. This led to even more rumors and speculation, including reports that police had permanently closed the popular park. A Google search for Piedmont Park showed a listing that the park had been closed, but there were no reports from police that the park itself was closed and no indication from local officials to suggest it would be closed.
The rumors were aided by a lack of local media coverage on the Piedmont Park hanging. While the Atlanta Journal-Constitution carried a story about the dead body being found, other television outlets noted that they do not cover suicides. It is a common editorial policy not to report on suicides, as this reporting has been shown to encourage other suicides, but many media outlets make an exception for suicides of a public nature or that cause a local disturbance.
Piedmont Park is a 189-acre space in central Atlanta that serves many functions. It is popular with joggers and recreational sports leagues, and also has the space to host large outdoor concerts. The city’s first professional baseball team, the Atlanta Crackers, played in Piedmont Park at the turn of the 20th Century.
A full autopsy is planned for the man found hanging in Piedmont Park to determine the exact cause and manner of death, police said. His name has not yet been released.
[Photo by David Goldman/AP Images]