- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Black Lives Matter activists in Saint Paul, Minnesota, are claiming a man was “lynched” in Indian Mounds Regional Park on Tuesday, even though the man turned out to be white and his death was ruled a suicide by county officials.

A man identified as 50-year-old Michael R. Bringle was found hanging from a tree early Tuesday about 5:40 a.m., St. Paul police told the Pioneer Press.

Despite contradictory rumors on social media, Mr. Bringle was Caucasian and was not found with his hands tied behind his back, the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office said. Lori Hedican, the office’s chief investigator, said there’s “no evidence that it was anything other than suicide.”

Rumors about the man’s death started with a Facebook post by a user of the name Davion Gatlin, who initially claimed the man was black, the Pioneer Press reported.

“[W]e ride pass the park around 6am and witness a brother hanging dead from a tree!” he wrote, attaching photos of the body that he took from afar. “They still killing us and we still killing each other! #MakeGoViral”

The verified Facebook account of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis has since picked up on Mr. Gatlin‘s semi-viral post, also sharing the graphic photos and claiming that the man was “lynched.”

“A man was found lynched in St. Paul, MN this morning,” the group posted. “St. Paul PD was quick to call this a suicide while witnesses on the scene say the man’s hands were tied behind his back. We are hurt by the tragic news and know that this despicable & disgusting act of cowardice will not be erased.”

The unofficial Black Lives Matter St. Paul, separate from BlackLivesMatter Saint Paul, also responded to the incident, claiming the man’s hands were tied behind his back and that the police are lying about the circumstances surrounding his death.

Multiple people have informed the groups that the narrative doesn’t fit, but they don’t appear to be backing down. The official Black Lives Matter Minneapolis group said Tuesday afternoon that Mr. Bringle “doesn’t look white” and that they’re simply asking for more answers surrounding his death. Mr. Gatlin, who originally published the photos, wrote in a later post that the news is “still not [going to] change the fact” that blacks are being lynched.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bringle‘s sister called on the community to respect her family and accept that his suicide was most likely due to mental illness.

“He was a good, hardworking man,” she said during a news conference. “He loved his children. He was a great brother.”

The St. Paul Police Department responded to the controversy in a Facebook post, saying Mr. Bringle‘s family “had to spend part of their day worrying about a photo posted on Facebook of him hanging from a tree and correcting misinformation about his death.”

The department confirmed that Mr. Bringle was white and “struggled with mental health.”

“His hands were not tied behind his back,” police said. “Michael‘s passing is incredibly hard on those who cared about him, and their pain has been compounded by the inconsiderate and downright disgusting act of posting and sharing a picture of him hanging from a tree on Facebook. If you have posted or shared the photos, please take them down so the family can begin to heal and Michael can rest in peace.”

Following the police department’s rebuke, both Black Lives Matter groups deleted their original posts and issued updates accepting the police‘s account of Mr. Bringle‘s suicide. Black Lives Matter Minneapolis apologized and provided readers with a number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“We would like to apologize to the family of Michael Bringle for sharing those photos & also retract our statements regarding what happened this morning,” the group said. “As more information came out & Mr. Bringle‘s family came forward it became clear that this was an unfortunate incident caused by mental illness. We are sorry if our post offended anyone & hope that folks see we were simply echoing the questions and concerns that community members had. We will absolutely respect the family’s wishes and take down the initial post, our hearts are with them at this time.”

Black Lives Matter St. Paul refrained from giving an apology, but posted a smiling photograph of Mr. Bringle standing in a kitchen, which, according to the group, is the picture his family wanted him to be remembered by.

“This was Michael Bringle - who we all believed was black and found in the Indian Mounds was actually white,” the group said. “As we did our own investigation we discovered the truth. Our intentions are not to spread lies, but to figure out what happen given the small information we received.

“In the picture, he did appear black, but he wasn’t. However, they say his hands weren’t bound behind his back, but in the picture that was taken it appeared that way,” the group said, referencing Mr. Gatlin‘s photos. “No matter what - He has our condolences. It’s unclear what exactly happened, but may his body rest in peace. #RIP”

Mr. Gatlin‘s photos remained active on Facebook as of Wednesday morning. He later said that he “did it to expose the truth on these officers and what they do [to] us.”

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