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Nearly 100 years later, man's lynching ruled a homicide

"We will remember; we will bring justice."
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Posted at 4:50 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 16:50:45-04

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WRTV) — Nearly a century later, a man's lynching has been ruled a homicide.

George Tompkins, 19, was found hanging in a park in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his hands tied behind his back, on March 16, 1922.

At the time, the coroner said "the man could not have hanged himself," but someone wrote suicide on the death certificate.

"Some 100 years ago, someone in the coroner's office made a decision that put history behind us in such a negative way," Marion County Chief Deputy Coroner Alfie McGinty said. “We will remember, we will bring justice to something that was unconscionable to me that 100 years ago something like this could have happened.”

A new death certificate was unveiled on Sunday. It says Tompkins was a victim of homicide.

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George Tompkins' original and revised death certificate

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the recognition came 100 years too late.

"It should not have come to pass that Indianapolis officials labeled this clear murder as instead an unlikely and physically impossible act of suicide," Hogsett said. "I invoke the City of Indianapolis to remind us that though we may answer to God's holy authority in the next world, it is a human authority that determines who gets justice in the here and in the now. It is up to public officials like myself and others to preserve and promote equal justice for all residents of our city ... Indianapolis can and must acknowledge a more complete story of its own history."

Karrah Herring, who is the chief officer of equity Indiana's governor, said the day was a "true moment of justice."

"I'm going to challenge us today that now is the time for all Americans ... to lay aside silly and divisive rhetoric so that we can move forward to a place where we reignite a passion for true conversation that is laced with civility and compassion," Herring said. "We have to acknowledge the truth of who we were as a nation and who we are as a nation."

A headstone was also dedicated at Tompkins' previously unmarked gravesite on Sunday.

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This story was originally reported by Michelle Kaufman on WRTV.com.