By Canberk Yuksel
NEW YORK (AA) : Dozens of students from the University of Washington held a vigil Tuesday evening in Seattle for an 18-year-old black Muslim who was found hanged in January.
The vigil – organized by the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Somali Student Association (SSA) – called for an FBI probe into the death of Ben Keita.
SSA’s Nafiso Egal told Anadolu Agency the vigil was to honor Keita’s life and bring media attention to the community’s loss.
“We need FBI to open an investigation,” Egal said. “The family needs FBI to open an investigation.”
Keita, who was set to graduate from high school, went missing last November. He was discovered in the woods by passers-by on Jan. 9 in the city of Lake Stevens, where the family lives.
Father Ibrahima Keita told local reporters his son was a “very young, happy young man” with “no history of depression, anxiety, any psychological break-down at all”.
Nevertheless, his death was ruled a suicide three days after he was found, and police closed the investigation.
The FBI has not opened one of its own but simply reviewed the probe conducted by the county police.
Later that month, a report by the local medical examiner reclassified the cause of death as “undetermined”.
It took into account the family’s statement as well as the fact that the wooded area where he was found had been searched three times before, and that the branch used in hanging was 50 feet (15 meters) high.
Egal is not certain whether everything that can be done has been done to give the family closure.
“As a black Muslim, it makes me feel extremely disheartened,” she said of Keita’s death and how it was handled by law enforcement.
Egal said one of the reasons why there was not enough police attention on the case might be “because of the political climate.
“People are saying this is a case of lynching, and that’s why police have to be extremely careful I guess, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the whole community found out about this almost two months later,” she said.
“That’s we can’t catch a break as black Muslims; we need the police to do better.”
[Photo: Muslim teen, Ben Keita . By Lake Stevens, Police Dept]