Family members of a Black man found hanged in a tree in Orlando, Florida, this month are challenging the medical examiner’s conclusion that he died by suicide.
Nevan Baker, 22, was found hanged in a tree in Barker Park on Sunday, Oct. 4, at around 3:45 a.m. He was found by a man who was walking his dog in the park. First responders quickly removed the young man when they arrived and performed life-saving measures, but without success.The Orlando Police Department and Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a suicide, but Baker’s family say the alarming details of the case warrant further investigation.
The “investigation has concluded with the determination of a suicide,” said Autumn Jones, a spokesperson for the Orlando Police Department.
But Baker’s mother rejects this conclusion and says she isn’t willing to accept the finding. “I’m not done with this situation; it’s just beginning,” said Sharhonda James to the Orlando Sentinel.
She also said she saw evidence of other injuries on her son’s body. She said she noticed swelling on his nose, bumps on his forehead, and a misaligned jaw. Jones said there were no other injuries on Baker’s body.
On Twitter, a woman who said she is Baker’s cousin alleged that he had been “beaten beyond recognition.”
Others on social media have challenged the conclusion of the medical examiner and the OPD and characterized Baker’s death as a lynching.
Amid continued speculation that Baker did not commit suicide but was instead met with foul play, the OPD released a statement on Twitter calling Baker’s death “A tragic case of suicide.”
“Officers have exhausted all leads, and, at this time there is no evidence of foul play or any king of physical struggle. The medical examiner also investigated and ruled the death a suicide.”
Over the summer, several Black people were founding hanging in trees across the U.S. and their deaths ruled suicides by authorities. In some cases, the family of the victims initially challenged the suicide ruling but later accepted the conclusion, such as in the case of Malcolm Harsch.
Baker’s mother says she knows her son did not commit suicide. “My son didn’t hang himself,” she said. “I know my child.”
A GoFundMe for Baker’s funeral costs has raised nearly $4,000.