Ben Keita, an 18-year-old black Muslim, was missing for months. His body, which was found hanging from a tree, hints at a possible hate crime.
Keita was first reported missing in November, just months prior to his graduation from Lake Stevens High School, where he dreamed of working in the medical field, according to his father, Ibrahima Keita. Roughly a month after he disappeared without having taken his car, wallet, or phone, his body was found in the woods near his home, hanging from a tree. KUOW reports that Keita’s death was initially ruled a suicide, but the cause of death has since been categorized as undetermined.
“Although at autopsy I did not see any evidence of trauma beyond the evidence of hanging, the circumstances of the very high tree branch, uncertain location of the decedent for the 6 weeks prior to discovery (with a report that the area where the body was found had been previously searched), and lack of any reported suicidal ideation or attempts makes a definitive classification of the manner as suicide uncertain,” wrote Snohomish County Medical Examiner Stanley Adams.
“[Keita had] no history of depression, anxiety, any psychological break down at all, so he was a very young, happy young man,” Ibrahima Keita told KUOW.
Arsalan Bukhari, a spokesman for the Washington state office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is calling for a federal investigation of Ben Keita’s death.
“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,” Bukhari told KUOW.
While Keita’s death has not yet been ruled as a homicide, it’s important to note that anti-Muslim hate crimes have surged as Donald Trump’s nationalistic presidential campaign snowballed into his election as the 45th President of the United States. CNN reported that anti-Islamic hate crimes surged by 67 percent last year, compared to the year before.
Tom Cahill is a writer for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook.