FBI to review young Muslim man's death

by: Essex Porter Updated:

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LAKE STEVENS, Wash. - Ben Keita was 18 years old when he died. His father says he did not seem suicidal when he disappeared on Nov. 26.

“No history of depression, anxiety, any psychological breakdown at all, so he was a very... happy young man, said his father Ibrahima Keita.

Ben Keita

In January, Keita’s body was found hanging from a tree in a wooded area near his Lake Stevens Home.

There were no other injuries, so the Snohomish County medical examiner concluded he took his own life.

But after his family pressed, the medical examiner changed the cause of death to undetermined.

The ME's report gives two reasons for the change, a K-9 search of the same area weeks earlier failed to find his body. Plus, the rope he was hanged with was tied an unusual 50 feet high in the tree.

So a coalition led by the Washington Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked the FBI to investigate.

In a Thursday news release, Lake Stevens police said the investigation has not uncovered any indication of a criminal act.

Police are asking the community to help shed light on Keita’s death. Anyone with any information on: why he stopped going to work and school, what his activities might have been in the weeks prior to November 26, 2016, on any disputes, augments, or issues he might have had in recent or anything that might have been overheard or seen that might be relevant to this case is asked to call police.

“We are careful not to rush to judgment,” said the Rev. Kele Brown, of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle. “Historically lynchings were often deemed quickly as suicide without the benefit of thorough inquiry.”

Keita’s family says among other things there are four co-workers who were not interviewed before the Lake Stevens police closed the investigation.

“We just want to make sure that the expertise, the experience and the human resources of the FBI are brought to make sure everything is comprehensively investigated, no stone is left unturned,”  Washington CAIR Executive Director Arsalan Bukhari said.

Lake Stevens police say they investigated thoroughly and didn't close the case until a week ago.

In a statement, the Seattle office of the FBI said it “is communicating with our police partners. We are aware of circumstances of the individual’s death and will review them with consideration of federal law. If warranted, we may conduct further investigation. A review does not necessarily result in the opening of an investigation.”