Ben M. Keita, a 19 year old Black Muslim man, had been missing since November 26th from his home in Lake Stevens, Washington. According to his mother, who plead for his return in local media. He disappeared into thin air without his phone, car or wallet. Over a month later, the unthinkable happened. On January, 9th, Ben was found hanging from a rope, tied 50 feet high to a tree, in a wooded area that had already been searched by authorities twice – and a mere 12 feet from a home.
The Snohomish County medical examiner, Dr. Daniel Selove, ruled Keita’s death a suicide.
Washington Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) director Arsalan Bukhari told Patch.com, “There were searches [for Keita] done on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and at least one with a K9. There was a helicopter search on Dec. 7,” Bukhari said. “Ether the searches were missing something or the body was missing.”
There were plenty of reasons to find the death alarming, such as his proximity to a populated home, the elevation of his body suspended from a tree and the fact that it had not been there during prior searches. Also, his mother, Aissata Keita, claimed on facebook during the searches that he had no mental illnesses that could have led to such a profound act, and had never acted out of rebellion.
Ben’s father, Ibrahima Keita, doubled down on her statements. “No history of depression, anxiety, any psychological breakdown at all, so he was a very … happy young man.”
Now, the Medical Examiner has changed Keita’s official cause of death from “Suicide” to “Undetermined” – an unusual classification involving cases where very little information is available or if evidence supports conflicting conclusions about the circumstances surrounding a death.
CAIR has asked the FBI to open a formal investigation into Keita’s death.
In a Nation whose President has perpetuated fear and bigoty toward Muslim Americans, including the suggestion of increasing surveillance of Muslin Neighborhoods and banning travel from majority Muslim countries, the discovery of a young black Muslim man hanging from a tree is more than terrifying, it is surreal, especially given America’s dark racist history.