“After the Uprising”: And Before His Death, Two Close Friends Allege Danyé Jones Waged A Quiet Battle With Depression

Melissa McKinnies’s belief that her son was murdered is unwavering, but the possibility that he died by suicide is far from implausible.

Melissa McKinnies’s belief that her son was murdered is unwavering, but the possibility that he died by suicide is far from implausible. With a system that tragically ignores the issue of suicide among young Black people, it would come as little surprise that Danyé’s mental and emotional turmoil slipped through the cracks until it was too late.

Professor Sherry Molock of George Washington University has written extensively about the issue, and her research fills a crucial gap in our understanding of the phenomenon. For decades, few looked into the issue of suicide among young Black people due to a longstanding myth that “Black people don’t complete suicide.” Due to inadequacies in data collection, which until the 1980s lumped all non-white races into a single category, it was impossible to understand how widespread the issue was in the Black community.

Because of the lack of understanding of these issues and the long history of lynchings in America, Molock says, it can be easier to believe that a death like Danyé’s isn’t a suicide. She maintains that it’s not illogical or an act of denial to believe that a suicide by hanging was a lynching, but that statistically, it’s more likely to be a suicide. However, the statistics are no excuse for a police department or medical examiner to not conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances in order to find the truth. Lynching is a sad, tragic reality and not something to be dismissed out of hand.

In light of this, why would Danyé choose a method so closely associated with racist violence? Molock emphasizes that there are no easy answers to why people take their own lives. People in pain may not be thinking as logically as those looking for explanations after the fact. They might not consider the optics or meaning behind their method of completion, and in fact most people who die by suicide simply choose the most accessible method that would most likely result in death. Statistically, this is either firearms, or hanging.

In Danyé’s case, he did not own any guns at the time of his death, but at his mother Melissa’s home he had ready access to ropes, extension cords and belts. Why, then, would he choose such an awkward tool as a fitted bed sheet when there were so many other convenient options? Again, it’s easy to apply logic and reason to a completed suicide after the fact, but the very act defies ration. Was Danyé’s isolation due to depression, or fixation on his work? Does the method used truly reflect the son of a prominent advocate for Black lives, or was he unbeknownst to others suffering depression so encompassing that he never considered the optics of his death? We can never truly know. We can only investigate and infer by talking to those closest to the departed, like Danyé’s best friend, Damon Moore.

Damon, contrary to the vast majority of Danyé’s friends and family, does lean toward believing that Danyé took his own life. He described a man who kept much to himself, vigilant but not paranoid, and overall “stressed out” near the end. Damon said that, between rumors about his sexuality, his fledgling real-estate business, his car troubles and his living situation, his friend had a lot on his plate but was doing his very best to stay strong. At the time, he didn’t recognize Danyé’s issues as depression, but looking back, Damon realized that his friend was hurting more than he knew, especially about his love for his mother and his fear of being a burden on her.

While Damon believes that Danyé taking his own life was certainly a possibility, there are still many unknowns around that conclusion which also warrant investigation. For example, were there any chemicals in Danyé’s system that could have allowed an attacker to get the drop on him? If he had been drugged, it could explain how someone could commit such a heinous act without anyone noticing, but according to the toxicology report, nothing heavier than THC was detected in his system.

Then there’s the issue of the YouTube search. As you’ll recall from our last article, on Danyé’s last day alive he performed a search for videos about “How to tie a hangman’s noose with a blanket.” That search linked to a five-minute video demonstrating how to tie a noose, though notably, with a rope, not a fitted sheet, and with a knot that was decidedly different from the one ultimately used. That video would not have helped him tie the figure-eight “Navy knot” that was actually used in the hanging, and there were no other such knot-tying searches found on his YouTube or any other app on his phone.

Furthermore, Danyé conducted an additional 26 searches after the “noose” query, though they were searches he had done days and weeks earlier, and he didn’t watch any of the videos after looking for them. This could mean that he was simply spamming old searches in an attempt to hide his “noose” one, though he could have accomplished this just as easily by clearing his search history.

Another issue with the “noose” search revolves around timing. According to the logs, Danyé searched for the video at 7:53 p.m., and watched it at 7:54 p.m. The problem is, this is the exact time when Danyé was watching a basketball game right next to his stepfather Derek. Derek doesn’t remember Danyé watching anything on his phone, or leaving him alone for any period of time. For Derek, it was just a normal night with his stepson watching their favorite teams.

The YouTube search seemed like a smoking gun, but there are simply too many uncertainties surrounding it to draw any sort of conclusion. For example, Danyé’s primary phone at the time was an Android device, but the metadata for the YouTube search shows it was performed by Apple OS. Danyé also had access to an iPhone, though its status on the night of his death is unknown. Danyé was also seen using a tablet at some point, though he didn’t own one. But if he borrowed a tablet from someone, and returned it without logging out, the owner of the tablet could conduct searches and alter his history as they saw fit.

Without a subpoena, or a way to access Danyé’s phone, we may never truly know what his digital fingerprints reveal about the night of his death. Still, as long as murder remains a possibility, we must consider the how, the why, and most importantly, who could have done so.

For a deeper conversation with Professor Molock surrounding suicide as it impacts the Black community, as well as more information about Danyé’s digital trail, listen to the 9th episode of the ‘After the Uprising’ podcast, and follow ‘After the Uprising’ on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for further updates and insights on Danyé’s story