The FBI is considering bringing civil rights violation charges in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by Missouri police on Saturday.
Cheryl Mimura, a special agent from the FBI’s St. Louis bureau, told NBC News: “We’ve been reviewing the matter. Today we officially [launched] an investigation into a potential civil rights violation.”
But she was quick to add: “Just because we initiate a case, it doesn’t mean there was any wrongdoing by anyone involved.”
Attorney General Eric Holder also issued a statement on the case: “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 the U.S. Attorney’s Office, have opened a concurrent, federal inquiry.”
“I will continue to receive regular updates on this matter in the coming days,” he added.
Meanwhile, widespread protests continued Monday in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson — where the shooting occurred — as individuals demanded answers from authorities.
A few hundred protesters gathered outside of the Ferguson fire station on Monday chanting, “No justice, no peace” and “Peaceful protest.” One person held a “Justice for all” sign as the crowd marched from the emergency building along a nearby street, where they came face-to-face with shielded police officers. Moments were tense as some protesters shouted at the authorities, who had formed a barricading line that spanned across the street. Protesters raised their arms in the air, an action they said was symbolic of Brown’s position when police shot at him. Some individuals carried stuffed dogs with them because they said police treated them like animals.
Brown, 18, was reportedly stopped by police for reasons currently unknown and was allegedly entering a squad car when, according to a 19-year-old witness, he attempted to flee with his hands in the air before shots were fired on him.
Riots broke out late Sunday in Ferguson, where people smashed car windows and broke into stores following Brown’s death. Roughly 150 police officers were called to contain the scene, and 32 individuals were arrested.
Leaders of the crowd that gathered Monday reiterated their intent for a peaceful demonstration, which contrasted the riots from Sunday. They demanded the police first identify the officer involved in the incident, then release the official from duty and charge the individual with murder. Protesters also requested that authorities disclose the contents of their handbook to residents to determine whether the officer followed protocol, and asked the police department to be more reflective of the community’s racial demographic.
The officer involved in the shooting is reportedly a six-year veteran of the force and has been put on administrative leave with pay, pending completion of the investigation.
During an interview with reporters on Monday, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said authorities would shut down the protests if they became violent. The crowd planned to hold a similar rally Tuesday outside of the prosecuting attorney’s office in nearby Clayton. Residents of Brown’s hometown have raised the possibility of carrying out an economic boycott of Ferguson.
Col. Jon Belmar, the St. Louis County chief of police, during a press conference on Sunday said that an altercation between Brown and the arresting officer led to the fatal shooting.
According to police, Brown pushed the officer into his vehicle, and a struggle ensued, during which the teenager allegedly reached for the officer’s gun. One shot was said to have been fired from inside the squad car.
The fatal shot allegedly took place about 35 feet from the vehicle.
“I understand the public has a right to be skeptical,” Belmar, the lead investigator, told reporters Monday. “I would ask the public to be reasonable.”
Police have confirmed that Brown was unarmed and that multiple shell casings were found on the scene. Belmar confirmed the autopsy had been completed by Monday afternoon, but he refused to release the results because of the ongoing police investigation. A toxicology report will also be conducted to determine if there were any illegal substances in Brown’s body.
During the news conference on Monday, Belmar said Brown was hit “several times” by gunfire. But the teenager’s mother, speaking during a previous interview with CNN, claimed Brown was shot eight times.
“My son just turned 18 and graduated high school and he didn’t bother nobody,” the young man’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, told CNN affiliate KSDK.
told The Associated Press.The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) had called for a federal investigation of Brown’s death. “With the recent events of a young man killed by the police in New York City and with Trayvon Martin and with all the other African-American young men that have been killed by police officers … this is a dire concern to the NAACP, especially our local organization,” John Gaskin, a member of the St. Louis chapter,
Some protesters who gathered Monday held signs that read: “I am Trayvon Martin.” George Zimmerman was acquitted last summer in the 2012 shooting death of the Florida teenager. Brown’s family has hired the services of national civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who previously represented the Martins, according to The Grio.
Brown was allegedly walking home with a friend on Saturday in the middle of the street near the apartment complex where he lived in Ferguson. Brown, who was spending the summer with his grandmother, was just 48 hours from starting his first day of college, according to relatives.
Authorities allegedly experienced difficulty removing Brown’s body from the scene, as protests erupted on the location shortly after the incident occurred. Demonstrators symbolically raised their hands in the air and chanted: “We are Michael Brown.”
The incident came on the heels of controversial police actions from earlier this summer. Last week, John Crawford, 22, was shot by police in a Dayton suburb of Ohio, after he picked up a toy gun in a local Walmart, which some customers mistook for the real object. Additionally, the death of Eric Garner, who was placed in a chokehold by New York police officers for allegedly resisting arrest, and the California highway beating of Marlene Pinnock by a patrolman, raised concerns about a potential epidemic of police brutality.