Coroner: Social media accounts of trucker’s death unsupported

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (ABC21) – Directly referencing widespread social media accounts that it categorized as “inaccurate,” the Allen County Coroner’s Office on Thursday offered a detailed look at a case ruled suicide by hanging earlier this month.

In a four-page explanation, the coroner’s chief investigator, Michael Burris, lays out a timeline that includes the discovery of the body of truck driver Taemon Blair on March 14 and that refutes numerous claims that have circulated on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Blair, 21, was found hanging at his truck, which was parked in the 9100 block of Bluffton Road. The North Carolina native died of asphyxia due to hanging, according to the coroner’s office, and the manner of death was ruled suicide.

The coroner says there was no evidence of defensive wounds, nor signs that Blair’s hands had been bound, as has been stated definitively by some social media accounts.

Over the past week, the online allegations have ramped up, suggesting a cover-up, and that Blair — who was black — was the victim of a lynching.

A television station based in Charlotte, N.C., amplified the call from a family member, who argued that, at 6-foot-5, Blair could not possibly have hanged himself. The family claims a Fort Wayne detective suggested to them that foul play may be involved.

The report by the station did not provide any photographs of the remains, which had been turned over to the family, or corroborating evidence from the funeral home that accepted them.

Fort Wayne Police said there was no indication of any suspicious activity regarding the death.

While social media has buzzed with demands for action, no major civil rights organizations had joined the campaign. The Allen County NAACP chapter in Fort Wayne posted this message on its own Facebook page on Wednesday:

Good Evening Fort Wayne Community,

At this moment, the NAACP has no comment regarding the death of Taemon Blair. Taemon’s death has been ruled a suicide according to the Allen County Coroner’s Office (…/2019/03/Taemon-Blair.pdf).

If we receive a complaint from the family of Taemon Blair, we will address the concern.

Thank You
Communication, Press and Publicity

In its account of the investigation, the coroner’s office lists multiple agencies — from the Fort Wayne Fire Department to Three Rivers Ambulance Authority to the FWPD Detectives Bureau — that were involved in the response.

The office notes that the cause of death was clear. In such cases, the coroner says, it is “consistent with protocol and past practice” not to conduct an autopsy.

The family retained the opportunity to do so independently, it was noted.

Data shows hanging is the second-most common form of suicide in Allen County, with 47 suicides overall reported in 2018 (down from 63 the year prior).

ABC21 does not generally name those who die by suicide. A policy exception has been made due to the circumstances of this case.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is a 24-hour resource for those in need. It can be reached at 800-273-8255.

Corinne Rose contributed to this report.

Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley

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