FBI investigating hanging death of African-American man in Mississippi

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Courtesy CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The hanging death of an African-American man who had been missing since early this month and was found Thursday by local authorities in Mississippi has drawn the scrutiny of the FBI and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

The sheriff’s office in Claiborne County, Mississippi had organized a search for the man, who had been missing since March 2 and reported missing March 8. Authorities found the body hanging from a tree in the woods behind the residence where he had been living.

It is unclear if it is a suicide, or if the man was killed by someone.

But at this point there are two parallel investigations: one by local authorities into the death and one by the FBI into whether there may be any federal civil rights violations. The FBI has a forensics team on the scene in Mississippi in part because the bureau has responsibility for federal civil rights law.

The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi are also investigating the death, according to a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.

According to a statement from the FBI, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is also on the scene.

“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,” according to the FBI statement.

“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 ,” according to the FBI.