An African-American man was found hanging from a tree in Claiborne County, Mississippi, on Thursday, according to a statement from the FBI.
Local law enforcement officials found the man’s body in the woods near his home, the FBI said. The officials were conducting a search for the man who had been missing since early this month.
The body was found with a bed sheet around the neck and wearing a skull cap, authorities said at a press conference later held by the FBI and the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities believe the dead man to be 54-year-old Otis Byrd, CNN reports.
It is not yet known whether he was killed or took his own life.
Two investigations are now examining his death — one by local authorities and another by federal authorities to determine whether there may be federal civil rights violations. The FBI, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi are all looking into the death, CNN reports.
“Earlier in the day, the Claiborne County Sheriffs Department and the Mississippi [Department of] Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks conducted a ground search for a man who had been missing since early March,” said a statement released by the FBI. “Officers located a man hanging in the woods near Roddy Road a half mile from his last known residence.”
Byrd’s father, Willie Shorter, told The Huffington Post that a pastor visited his home Thursday morning to deliver the news.
“I was mad,” Shorter said, describing the emotions he felt. “How would you feel if it was your child hanging from a tree?”
Shorter said that he declined to visit the scene and that he’s been trying to cope with the news all day. “I’m angry, but what am I supposed to do about it?” he said.
Shorter and his wife, Janine, said they last saw Byrd on March 1. However, friends say they dropped him off at a casino in nearby Vicksburg the following day and have not seem him since. Family members filed a missing persons report on March 8.
“The sheriff’s department contacted the MBI [Mississippi Bureau of Investigation] and FBI for forensic and investigative assistance,” the FBI said in its statement about the discovery of the body. “Investigators are currently processing the scene for evidence to determine the cause and manner of death.”