The family of U.S. Army Veteran and father of three ,Donté Perez Jones, are seeking answers after his body was found hanging in a park behind Whitpain Township Police Department in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania!
According to Atlanta Black Star, investigators said a resident discovered a body leaning against a piece of playground equipment around 7 a.m. As reported by authorities, a police officer and paramedic responded to the devastating scene and located Jones, who was unresponsive. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office closed off a large park area and conducted an investigation but stated, “nothing suspicious was found in the area.”
Police then contacted LaTina Dean, Donté’s mother, stating that the case was close and ruled a suicide; for that reason, an autopsy wouldn’t be conducted. Since Jones’ was found, his mother has not been allowed to see her son’s body.
Dean says the last time she saw her son was when he visited her on June 16 around 11:40 p.m. Jones reportedly lived in Delaware County, nearly an hour from where his body was found.
On June 18, the family of Donté Perez Jones gathered at Wentz Run Park to share their dissatisfaction with how law enforcement has handled the veteran’s death. Dean believes the WPDs lack of investigation indicates Jones’ death was covered-up and should be considered a lynching.
In a video, one family member spoke about the restraints officers placed on the family, “They wouldn’t let you identify the body. They wouldn’t allow you to see if there were any types of marks on his body. You weren’t able to check his neck to see if he was hung. You weren’t able to check his wrists for handcuffs [and] you were unable to check his entire body for any type of bruises or to even identify if that was actually your son.”
“But then tell you, take my word for it,” the man ended his remarks in disbelief. Dean then comments, “there are much more details that point to that this was a murder.”
Voices in the background say, “And a cover-up.”
As she points to the slide, she says, “You just saw a Black male hanging … and then you take him down and then say that was suicide. [That] doesn’t make sense.”
“And then you have an event here at 2 o’clock?” she asks. “Is that what we do? The same day.”
Dean claimed that Donté’s identification card and keys were found at the scene of his death. According to the family, his wallet was missing, and his feet were touching the ground.
Dean says she pushed back and requested an autopsy in case her son was drugged or knocked out. “He’s a big guy, he served in the military for six years. You’re not going to tell me he can’t defend himself,” she said.
A family member also said they came to Wentz Run Park to search for cameras that might have captured this tragic incident. After informing police about a nearby camera, officers reportedly told the family that “pulling evidence from that camera would be impossible.”
“Yesterday they told us they didn’t have access to that camera, that camera is a live feed and we don’t know if we can even get footage off that camera for you guys,” the family member said. “But this is a park where all children play, you mean to tell me you don’t [have] footage, you’re not covering children in a park?”
“This is an educated man that went to Shippensburg [University] for undergrad and grad,” Dean said. “He’s educated, he’s smart, he went into the military, he wanted to go to the military first, but I told him, ‘No, you need to go to school and get an education because that’s one thing they can’t take from you.’ I didn’t know to tell him that they could take his life.”
The mother has created a GoFundMe to raise money for Donté’s funeral, and the family is also asking for assistance to “obtain an independent autopsy and legal counsel.” The family has reached out to government officials, NAACP representatives, and state representatives to help determine what happened to their loved one.
The WPD released a statement Tuesday, June 21, denying claims that the family was told the case was closed, that Donté’s death was ruled a suicide, or that the coroner’s office wouldn’t be performing an autopsy on Donté’s corpse.
In the statement, Chief Kenneth Lawson offered his condolences to the family, children, and friends of Donté.
“Mr. Jones was a son, a father, an Army veteran, and a member of his Sharon Hilly community. We are deeply sorry for this loss,” it read in part.
“The investigation into the death of Mr. Jones is ongoing, and the Whitpain Police Department did not report that the investigation is closed. We are taking this matter seriously as we would with any similar situation. The Whitpain Police Department is seeking to talk with anyone who might have information related to the incident.”