Seattle Muslim teen found hanged in woods; family seeks answers.
The Seattle office of the FBI has said in a statement Thursday that it is reviewing the circumstances surrounding Ben Keita’s death.
“[The Seattle office of the FBI] is communicating with our police partners,” the statement read, according to CBS affiliate Kiro7 in Seattle. “We are aware of circumstances of the individual’s death and will review them with consideration of federal law. If warranted, we may conduct further investigation. A review does not necessarily result in the opening of an investigation.”
Original story: The country’s largest Muslim civil rights organization has called for an FBI investigation into the death of a black Muslim teen who was found hanging from a tree near his home in Lake Stevens, Washington, in January.
Ben Keita, who was 18, was reported missing in November, having left home without his car, wallet or phone. His body was found more than a month later.
While the case was initially ruled a suicide, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner later changed its conclusion to undetermined. Keita’s father said there was no suggestion he had suicidal thoughts.
“Ben was very happy young man,” Ibrahim Keita told KOMO News in Seattle. “He was already in the running start program going to Everett Community College. No history of depression or anxiety, any psychological breakdown at all whatsoever.”
Police said that foul play was not suspected. However, Keita’s family was calling for an FBI investigation and for anyone with any information on the teen’s whereabouts prior to his death to contact the bureau. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also sent a letter to the FBI’s Seattle office Monday requesting a federal investigation.
“We want to make sure that the expertise, the experience, and the human resources of the FBI are brought in to make sure that everything is comprehensively investigated, no stone is left unturned and we really want to get answers about what may have happened,” Arsalan Bukhari of CAIR-Washington said.
CAIR was joined by other faith leaders at a press conference Tuesday.
“We are careful not to rush to judgment,” Rev. Kele Brown, of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle, said. “Historically lynchings were often deemed quickly as suicide without the benefit of thorough inquiry.”
The medical examiner offered two reasons for its change from its initial verdict: that a K-9 search of the same area had weeks earlier failed to find the teen’s body and that the rope from which he was hanged was tied 50 feet high in the tree.
Hate crimes against Muslims have increased significantly in the past two years. In 2015, the last year for which data is available, the FBI recorded a 67 percent rise in hate crimes targeting Muslims.
The last recorded lynching in the United States was the hanging of Michael Donald at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan in Mobile, Alabama, in 1981.