Cops sure jumped to "suicide" conclusion for Nevan Baker
Orlando police insist they conducted a thorough investigation into the death of Nevan Baker, 22, who was found hanging from a tree in Orlando’s Barker Park, not far from Camping World Stadium.
Mr. Baker was found before 4 a.m. on Monday (Oct 5th). By the end of that day, police and medical examiner declared the death a “suicide”.
The “Practical Homicide Investigation” textbook is the bible for police death investigations. It states: “All death inquiries should be conducted as homicide investigations until the facts prove differently. The resolution of the mode of death as Suicide is based on a series of factors which eliminate Homicide, Accident and Natural Causes of death.”
Attempting to bolster their claim that Mr. Baker’s death was a suicide, on Friday (10/9) Orlando police sent the news media a one-page document from the medical examiner’s office (accompanying this article) stating Mr. Baker’s death was a suicide.
The document is useless because it includes no scientific
or physical details justifying the “suicide” conclusion.
Keep in mind that the medical examiner is an Orange County employee who works closely with police. Medical examiners are not above suspicion or bias when it comes to investigating the deaths of black people, as noted by The Guardian newspaper in an article this summer.
In Minneapolis, the medical examiner concluded George Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual.” The Colorado medical examiner who investigated the death of Elijah McClain, who died after being choked by police listed his cause of death as “undetermined.”
Vernon Geberth, a veteran homicide investigator and author of “Practical Homicide Investigation” wrote an article acknowledging that death investigations are complex. Yet there is no room for assumptions or shortcuts.
“If the case is reported as a “Suicide,”’ Mr. Geberth wrote, “the police officers who respond as well as the investigators automatically tend to treat the call as a suicide. It is a critical error in thinking to handle the call based on the initial report. The immediate problem is that psychologically one is assuming the death to be a suicide case, when in fact this is a basic death investigation, which could very well turn out to be a homicide. The investigator cannot “assume” anything as a professional law enforcement officer.
“Any preconceived theories or notions are dangerous in professional death investigation. In addition to errors of assuming a “suicide” or natural death other preconceived notions may include deaths, which appear to be drug related and/or domestic violence. One must keep an open mind and not be influenced either by the initial reports or the presentation in the crime scene.”
In Mr. Geberth’s article, which you can read by clicking here, he lays out 7 common mistakes detectives can make while investigating deaths that may be suicides or homicides.
A few questions that need to be clarified in Mr. Baker’s death, include:
· Was there the sign of a struggle? The police said there were no signs of a struggle. Yet Mr. Baker’s family insist there were injuries to his face and jaw and a tooth was missing.”
· How did Mr. Baker get into the tree to hang himself?
· Where did the rope come from? His death occurred after midnight and before 3 a.m.
· How did he get to Barker Park, which is a few miles from his home?
· How was the rope tied?
· Why would he charge his phone and then kill himself an hour later?
· Was there anything in his phone that might explain why he would kill himself?
Beyond that, the lynch mob’s noose is such powerfully frightening image to most African Americans -- especially black men.
Why would Mr. Baker choose a noose to kill himself? The overwhelming majority of suicides in the United States are committed by middle-age white males. Most of them use a gun to kill themselves.
Many black people don’t trust the police – and for good reason. To prove Mr. Baker’s death was a suicide, detectives must do more work and be more transparent with their findings and conclusions.