Monday, April 6, 2015
PORT GIBSON, Miss. (AP) — Two weekend gatherings at the Claiborne County Courthouse called for action in the death of Otis Byrd, a man reported missing early in March and found March 19, hanging from a tree.
The investigation is taking too long, organizers of both groups told the Vicksburg Post, saying they won't believe it if authorities report that Byrd killed himself.
"We want justice, and we want justice now," said Claiborne County NAACP president Evan Doss, who led a Saturday morning march and rally. "We're not going to accept suicide. That's just not there."
Byrd, 54, was found hanging by a bed sheet from a branch of a tree behind his rented house.
If agents in Port Gibson cannot say by now whether he was killed or killed himself, more agents are needed, said Doss.
The team of federal, state and local investigators is waiting for FBI Laboratory test results, said Don Alway, FBI special agent in charge for Mississippi.
"We'll combine those results with many other facts we've gathered, to give the results context. These facts will give investigators the most accurate information to determine what happened," he said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
Claiborne County Supervisor Edwin Smith told the first gathering, "I'd like to apologize on behalf of the county. These people deserve action. We've been disrespected. If they can look at a satellite and get your tag number, we can surely get some closure on this."
Stephanie Atlas said her husband worked with Byrd, and she doesn't believe he committed suicide.
"He wasn't that type of person, so I wanted to come and support the family," she said. "He didn't take his own life."
The national chair of the New Black Panther Party, Krystal Muhammad, led a Saturday afternoon community meeting on the courthouse steps.
"We know that Otis Byrd was lynched," she said. "We're not going to let it just be a cover-up. We went and looked at the scene ourselves. It's impossible that he lynched himself, and we're not going to let Mississippi get away with their old Mississippi ways."
Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas said people need patience.
"All I ask is that people let the authorities do their job and don't feed into that foolishness, that hearsay," he said.