It all began with photos posted to Facebook of a body hanging from a tree in a St. Paul, Minnesota, park Tuesday morning.
“[W]e ride pass the park around 6 a.m. and witness a brother hanging dead from a tree!” Davion Gatlin wrote, the Washington Times said. “They still killing us and we still killing each other! #MakeGoViral."
Indeed, the images were shared thousands of times over.
With that, Black Lives Matter St. Paul posted a statement Tuesday on its Facebook page that a black man had been “lynched” and that his hands were tied behind his back, the Star-Tribune reported.
Problem is, the man found hanging — 50-year-old Michael Bringle — was white and committed suicide, police said. His hands were not bound, the Pioneer Press said.
But Black Lives Matter Minneapolis apparently wasn't quite convinced. The group said Tuesday afternoon that Bringle “doesn’t look white," the Times reported.
“A man was found lynched in St. Paul, MN this morning,” the group posted on its Facebook page, the Times said. “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.”
Soon Bringle's sister, Kelly Brown-Rozowski, spoke at a news conference, calling Bringle a "good, hardworking man" who "loved his children" and was "a great brother.”
Micheal Bringle's sister says family's loss was compounded by FB photos of his body at Mounds Park and speculation… https://t.co/bthl5lYZtB— Mara Gottfried (@Mara Gottfried)1501614059.0
She also addressed falsehoods about Bringle spreading on social media.
“To me, hearing about it on Facebook was so devastating,” she said, according to the Star-Tribune. “This isn’t something to be shared in such a tragic way. He should be remembered for what a great man he was.”
St. Paul police issued a statement on Facebook asking those who've posted the graphic photos of Bringle to take them down.
"Instead of mourning, his family members 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 statement said.
Finally, both Black Lives Matter groups took down their original posts.
"We would like to apologize to the family of Micheal Bringle for sharing those photos & also retract our statements regarding what happened this morning," Black Lives Matter Minneapolis wrote in a Facebook update. "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."
Black Lives Matter St. Paul stopped well short of an apology: "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. The young man who took the picture didn't want to come forward, which we could understand, but that took social media by storm, so all we could do was get to the bottom of this. We are not here to appease the status quo, but to set the truth free. ... 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. No matter what — He has our condolences. It's unclear what exactly happened, but may his body rest in peace ..."
As you might imagine, not every commenter was kind to the Black Lives Matter groups.
One told BLM St. Paul that "perhaps..before you post s**t on your wall..get your facts straight."
Another told BLM Minneapolis that "posting the pictures was offensive no matter the circumstance. I can't imagine if I were a family member who came upon your post. Jumping to conclusions is harmful to everyone involved; the poor guys family and your credibility."