16 years after Alonzo Brooks, a Black man in Kansas mysteriously died after attending a party attended by mostly white people, his death is being considered a hate crime. The FBI is offering a $100,000 award for information leading to his killers.
Brooks attended a party in La Cygne, Kansas on April 4, 2004 at a farmhouse and didn’t return home. On the side of the road near the event his boots and hat were found.
“Our thoughts were, ‘Something happened at this party,’” Brooks' sister Esperanza Roberts told PEOPLE. “We need to get on the phone and talk to people. We need to find out what happened.”
Law enforcement were called to the location and searched the area but couldn’t find Brooks, who was only one of three Black men at the party of 100 or so.
“Alonzo wasn’t a social-butterfly type,” his best friend Rodney English told the magazine.
Demetria Leslie, his sister says, “He’s shy. He has to warm up to you. He didn’t like to be around a big crowd of people.”
On May 1, family members and friends discovered Brooks’ body in a creek about 200 yards away from the party house.
“It was a horrible experience,” says Roberts. “No family should have to ever go through anything like that.”
Brooks’ case was featured on Netflix’s reboot of Unsolved Mysteries, and has since received renewed interest. A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction.
Stephen McAllister, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas, says he believes Brooks was murdered and that his death was racially motivated.
“There's just nothing that makes any sense that it would have been some kind of an accident on his part or voluntary,” he says. “There just doesn't seem to be any real plausible explanation other than something bad happened.”
Authorities have reportedly spoken with partygoers who have never been interviewed before, and recently began administering lie detector tests to witnesses. In July, Brooks' body was exhumed. McAllister says he believes the autopsy findings will be available by the end of the month.
“Things are shaking loose,” he says. “Things are starting to fall out of the trees. And, I'm confident that we're going to get there. I think it's got some people nervous for the right reasons. The answers are out there. There ought to be a way to give this family peace.”
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