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Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have released new, separate statements following the reported drowning death of their personal chef last month.
The body of Tafari Campbell, 45, of Dumfries, Va., was recovered from Edgartown Great Pond after an extensive search, Fox News reported.
Police said that Campbell was paddleboarding near the Obamas’ home in Martha’s Vineyard and was not wearing a life jacket. They added that no foul play was suspected in the incident.
In a message on Instagram Thursday afternoon, the former president posted a photo of Campbell and said he was a man of “character.”
“Tafari Campbell showed us what true character looks like. He believed that actions speak louder than words. And he used his immense gifts to bring people together, provide comfort, and spread joy. I’ll miss him every day,” said the message.
Michelle Obama, on her Instagram page, posted a photo of herself, Campbell, and Barack, writing: “I will miss my friend, Tafari…the emptiness is hard. But I promise to stay strong, keep living, and honor your legacy in every way possible. Rest in peace, my brother.”
The Massachusetts State Police said in a statement following the discovery of Campbell’s body that the Obamas were not home when he disappeared and apparently drowned.
“Mr. Campbell was employed by former President Obama and was visiting Martha’s Vineyard at the time of his passing. President and Mrs. Obama were not present at the residence at the time of the accident,” the agency said.
According to a paddleboarder who was with Campbell, he was seen standing on his paddleboard when he lost his balance and fell into the water. The paddleboarder recalled that Campbell struggled to stay afloat but eventually submerged.
The fellow paddleboarder informed investigators that they made an effort to swim to Campbell’s location but were unable to reach him in time, Fox News noted.
They eventually swam back to shore and sought assistance from someone to call 911. Upon receiving the distress call, the Dukes County Regional Emergency Communications Center promptly launched an emergency search and rescue operation involving multiple public safety agencies, Fox News noted further.
“The on-scene observation of the victim by state police personnel and the post-mortem examination by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner revealed no external trauma or injuries,” Fox reported.
On Friday, the UK’s Daily Mail reported that police are still withholding key information about the incident.
“Massachusetts state police are covering up information about the drowning of Barack Obama’s personal chef, labeling the incident an accident but continuing to withhold information under the guise of an ‘ongoing investigation,'” the outlet said, adding:
It’s been 11 days since Tafari Campbell drowned in a pond bordering the former president’s estate, but authorities are rejecting requests for even basic facts including the identity of the sole witness and the 911 caller.
The state is citing a Public Records Law exemption that allows police to withhold any information that could jeopardize an active investigation.
But the head of the region’s First Amendment coalition told DailyMail.com that police are abusing that law, given they’ve already ruled out foul play.
The only matter pending is a toxicology report that could show whether Campbell had drugs in his system or suffered some sort of medical episode.
“The burden is on law enforcement to show how their investigation may be jeopardized by releasing certain information,” Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition, told the Daily Mail. “And they’re not doing that right now. This really flies in the face of Public Records Law.”
Sources who were part of the initial multi-jurisdictional effort informed DailyMail.com that state police have equipped departments with rejection letters to respond to media inquiries, the outlet reported.
“Hello. At this time, we will not be releasing any recordings or materials,” said a message sent to the outlet.
Citing the state Public Records Law, the letter said it exempts the release of records that “would probably so prejudice the possibility of effective law enforcement that such disclosure would not be in the public interest.”