Amid efforts to find unidentified victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma, a forensic anthropologist discovered that one of three sets of remains exhumed last week included a victim with a gunshot wound, authorities said.
The remains were uncovered at an excavation site in the Oaklawn Cemetery this year while crews were working to find additional victims, according to a news release from the city of Tulsa.
“During lab work, a bullet core was removed from the victim’s skull,” the release said. “At this time, experts believe the victim to be an adult male, though no definitive information on race or potential relation to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre can be confirmed at this time.”
The gunshot victim was buried in a plain casket in the Original 18 Potter’s Field area, authorities added.
This is the second gunshot victim found in the search for potential victims from the massacre, according to the release. The first gunshot victim was found during last year’s excavation.
“DNA analysis of the first gunshot victim continues in Utah with Intermountain Forensics and no definitive information about potential relation to the Tulsa Race Massacre can be confirmed at this time,” the release read.
The city is in the midst of a yearslong investigation into the events of the 1921 massacre, which was inflicted by a violent White mob that targeted Black residents and destroyed Tulsa’s Greenwood district, a thriving Black economic hub. As many as 300 hundred people were killed and more than 1,000 homes are estimated to have been destroyed, according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum.
However, only 26 death certificates were issued in 1921 for Black victims of the massacre, according to the city – 21 of which were reportedly buried in Oaklawn Cemetery.
After an excavation in the cemetery last year resulted in 19 exhumations, the city began a second excavation on October 26.
Since then, 26 burials have been found and four sets of remains have been exhumed and taken to an on-site osteology lab, Tulsa officials said.
Oaklawn Cemetery is one of four sites identified for the investigation. Others include Newblock Park, another area near Newblock Park and Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens, according to the city website.
The investigation’s first phase involved the use of ground penetrating radar, which found evidence of “anomalies” at two areas of Oaklawn Cemetery, including the Original 18 site, officials said.
Descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre and leaders in Tulsa’s African American community are serving as part of a public oversight committee set up to serve in an advisory capacity during the investigation.
“The only way to move forward in our work to bring about reconciliation in Tulsa is by seeking the truth honestly,” Mayor G.T. Bynum says on the website. “As we open this investigation 101 years later, there are both unknowns and truths to uncover. But we are committed to exploring what happened in 1921 through a collective and transparent process - filling gaps in our city’s history, and providing healing and justice to our community.”