Danye Jones was found dead on Oct. 17 in the backyard of his mother’s home in St. Louis County, Mo. Police are investigating the death as a suicide, but his mother, Melissa McKinnies, an activist involved in the Ferguson, Mo., protests over the 2014 shooting death of Mike Brown by police, insists it was a lynching. She also believes her son was targeted because of her activism, The Washington Post reports, and perhaps is part of a larger wave of killings of people active in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Jones’ death garnered attention when McKinnies shared on social media photos that appeared to be him hanging from a bedsheet. In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, McKinnies said that her son had been upbeat in the days leading up to his death, and that the bedsheet in question didn’t match any she owned. She also said he was not familiar with any of the knots used to tie the sheet.

Jones had also packed an overnight bag, which, McKinnies told the Post-Dispatch, indicated that he trusted his killer and had planned to go somewhere with him or her.

“They lynched my baby,” McKinnies wrote in a since-removed Facebook post.

St. Louis County police told the Post-Dispatch that Jones’ death is being handled as a suicide:

Spokesman Shawn McGuire said the body was on the ground when police arrived. There were no signs of struggle or trauma to the body. And, he said, the family reported a suicide when they called 911. A determination of the cause of death had not yet been made, pending results from toxicology tests.

But Jones’ death is raising suspicions that someone, or even a group, is targeting activists. As The Washington Post observes, “Three untimely deaths in St. Louis County over the past four years have inspired speculation that Ferguson protesters are being systematically murdered, although so far there is no evidence to suggest that the parallels are anything more than coincidental.”

Brittany Packnett, a Ferguson activist, creator of Campaign Zero and vice president of national community alliances for Teach for America, doesn’t believe Jones’ death is coincidental. “#DanyeJones is at least the 4th person related to the #Ferguson uprising to die in more than suspicious circumstances,” she wrote on Twitter. “This is a pattern.”

The St. Louis County medical examiner’s office would not comment on its ongoing investigation into the cause of Jones’ death. It could take weeks before a final ruling is issued.


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