Piedmont Park hanging: What we know

Police investigate a body found in Piedmont Park. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Police investigate a body found in Piedmont Park. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Early Thursday, a body was found hanging from a tree in Piedmont Park in Midtown.

Here is what we know so far:

1. There was a body. A black man between the ages of 25 and 35 was found dead about 4 a.m., Atlanta police spokesman Donald Hannah said. Park security made the discovery.

According to police report released Friday, the man had earbuds in his ears and a backpack around his waist. He was dressed in a gray T-shirt, black jeans and black Converse shoes. He “appeared to be clean cut and well dressed,” police said.

2. There was a rope. Officers were called to the Charles Allen entrance of the park and discovered the man's lifeless body hanging from a tree by a rope, Hannah said.

Emergency officials arrived on the scene and pronounced the man dead, he said.

3. Police said the scene was consistent with that of a suicide. "There were no discernible signs of a struggle or foul play," Hannah said. A "Fulton County medical examiner concurred that the death was consistent with a suicide."

According to the police report, the man had marks on the front of his jeans and light pollen on the front of his shirt — marks consistent with climbing a tree. Next to the tree was a large, wheeled garbage can, green in color with a black top. “I then examined the top of the garbage can and noted shoe prints were near the top edges of the can,” police said. “The shoe prints appeared to be fresh and were the same pattern as the shoes the male was wearing.”

4. Twitter users, many of them on edge in the wake of two recent videotaped shooting deaths of black men at the hands of police officers, weren't buying it. Piedmont Park became a trending topic on Twitter, where some users called the death "another modern-day lynching."

5. Officials said the Ku Klux Klan was not in the area the night before the man's body was found, as Twitter users have speculated.

During a press conference Friday afternoon, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the police department has “found no evidence to the rumors of the KKK in Piedmont Park.

“I’ve been following internet and social media chatter and they are saying things that are just not true.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached out the the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based organization that monitors the activity of hate groups. “We are monitoring this situation, but will not have a comment or anything to add until we learn more,” SPLC spokeswoman Kirsten Bokenkamp said.

6. The case has been referred to the FBI, Reed said in a statement. The statement was issued Thursday afternoon, hours after social media users expressed outrage about the Atlanta Police Department's contention the scene was consistent with a suicide. An autopsy has not been performed.

The FBI was called in to investigate the death before the social media outrage began, Reed said Friday.

“We made the judgment that it was best to call our partners at the FBI because we did not want there to be a hint of a cover-up,” he said. “I wasn’t driven by social media. The chief and I talked early that morning, and because of the circumstances, the cleanest action was to have the FBI as a partner.”

Reed said it was never “a question of whether the FBI would be involved.”

7. The FBI cannot comment on the situation yet. The AJC reached out to the FBI to ask how the organization will proceed with the investigation.

“The FBI is not commenting on the matter at this time,” FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said.

— Staff writer Steve Burns contributed to this article.

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