Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department’s investigation into the Michael Brown shooting is still “ongoing” despite the conclusion of the St. Louis County grand jury proceeding.
“Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now,” Holder said in a statement late Monday. “Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence. And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.”
Holder, who visited Ferguson in August, called Brown’s death a “tragedy.”
“This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve,” he said. “While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust.”
“The Department will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall. In addition, the Department continues to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department.”
Holder said in early September that during his visit to Ferguson he heard people “consistently” express “compelling” concern about law enforcement incidents and a “lack of diversity on the police force.” He added that the review of “constitutional policing” practices would be undertaken by the Civil Rights Division.
“Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence,” Holder continued in his Monday statement. “Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully. It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting.” CNN reported this morning that more than a dozen stores were burned in the aftermath of the verdict.
“In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays—and uses—of force.”