By Bradford Mason
The family of Amanuel “Amani” Kildea is still looking for answers after the 20-year-old Black man was found hanging from a tree on June 28 in Lewis Morris Park in Morris Township, N.J.
Reports indicate that law enforcement officials ruled the death a suicide but Kildea’s family and local activists believe he’s the victim of a lynching. His body was found an hour away from home. Private funeral for Kildea’s was held July 6 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Roxbury
Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp said in a statement that there was no evidence of a criminal act and that the investigation into what happened to Kildea is active.
“Contrary to the statements made in social media and elsewhere, the investigation remains open and has not concluded,” Knapp said. “Our initial statement by this office was intended to preliminarily and expeditiously inform the public that we and multiple other law enforcement agencies, including the Morris County Park Police, Morris County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit and Morris County Medical Examiner’s Office, have been working with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit to investigate the circumstances of Mr. Kildea’s death.”
Kildea was from Ethiopia and was adopted at age 5 by a white family who says he had dreams of going to the FBI or CIA. He recently graduated from West Central Morris High School in Long Valley, N.J. where he played football, basketball and also participated in the Army Reserves. Kildea was headed to James Madison University in the fall.
Working to make his community safer, Kildea was part of the online team PedoGotCaught, a group that exposes alleged child-sex predators. PedoGotCuaght targets people trying to meet up with minors for sex by posing as minors to engage alleged predators online and exposes them on social media.
“Amani was sensitive, tender-hearted, gentle and kind. He was a great listener, and he loved to listen to family stories,” his obituary stated. “He felt deeply, observed closely. He was broken in ways that very few could see or would ever know.”
Black Lives Matter Morristown founder T’Anna Kimbrough said that she and several members of the community have questions about Kildea’s death and don’t believe it was a suicide. Questions include what Kildea was hanging on, his mental health history, whether or not a suicide not was left and his cell phone records.
“We demand answers to these questions. It is possible that Amani’s death was caused by suicide, however, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office has failed to provide the community with transparency and a fair investigation as it relates to the hanging of Amani Kildea,” Kimbrough said. “As a result, Black Lives Matter Morristown has zero faith in the declaration of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and seeks the truth.
Kildea’s death comes as several other Black men are found around the nation hung from trees as the country deals with racial unrest after the police killing of unarmed, Black George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The body of 25-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale, California and the body of 27-year-old New York City resident Dominique Alexander was found hanging from a tree in a Manhattan park.
A petition started on change.org was created to bring awareness about Kildea’s death and urging the Morris County Prosecutor’s office to further investigate the case.