Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who represents St. Louis, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to expand the Justice Department’s probe into the police shooting of a teenager in Ferguson, Mo.
Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death in a St. Louis suburb on Saturday afternoon. Police say the teen attacked an officer and tried to take his gun, while witnesses counter that the unarmed teen had his hands up in the air.
“The shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri this weekend deserves a fulsome review. In addition to the local investigation already underway, FBI agents from the St. Louis field office, working together with attorneys from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and US Attorney’s Office, have opened a concurrent, federal inquiry,” Holder said in a statement on Monday. “The federal investigation will supplement, rather than supplant, the inquiry by local authorities. At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right.”
“I will continue to receive regular updates on this matter in the coming days. Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
The members of Congress asked Holder in a letter today to examine “both the facts of the specific incident as well as the potential for any pattern or practice of police misconduct by the Ferguson Police Department.”
“We understand that the St. Louis County Police Department is investigating the matter in order to have some level of independent investigation take place, but this arrangement is insufficient for at least two reasons,” the lawmakers continued. “First, the St. Louis County Police Department may not be the most objective or credible body to investigate civil rights matters involving law enforcement given evidence of racial profiling by that department in the recent past, which Congressman Clay had asked the Department of Justice to investigate.”
“Second, only the federal government has the resources, the experience, and the full independence to give this case the close scrutiny that the citizens of Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area deserve,” they continued. “Moreover, to the extent that a pattern or practice of police misconduct may exist, such misconduct would be a clear violation of federal law, including 42 U.S.C. § 14141, which makes it unlawful for State or local law enforcement officers to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Such conduct would include the use of excessive force by police.”
GOP Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.) said a in statement that he stands with “all Missourians in remembering the family of Michael Brown and the Ferguson community as they grieve the tragic loss of this young man.”
“His recent high school graduation should have been a beginning of better things,” Blunt added of the teen, who was supposed to start school at a technical college on Monday.
“Everyone deserves a transparent understanding of what happened here,” the senator added. “I am fully supportive of County Executive Charlie Dooley and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar calling for DOJ and the FBI to take a careful, open review of the events that led to this tragedy for everyone involved.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said “as a mother, I grieve for this child and his family.”
“I pray that the wonderful, hardworking, and God-loving people of Ferguson will find peace and patience as we wait for the results of what will be numerous and thorough investigations of what happened,” McCaskill added in a statement. “I, like so many other Missourians, will not be satisfied until we have a complete and transparent understanding of all the facts and circumstances that led to this young man’s death.”