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Eric Holder asks Ferguson for 'cooperation and patience'

Holder vows the Justice Department will conduct a fair and independent investigation into Michael Brown's death, all while urging calm, nonviolent protests.
US Attorney General Eric Holder speaks on July 15, 2014.
US Attorney General Eric Holder speaks on July 15, 2014.

Coinciding with his planned visit Wednesday to Ferguson, Mo., Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a message to those protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown: Justice will be served.

Published online by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch under the headline, "A message for the people of Ferguson," Holder wrote that "the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened."

In his op-ed, Holder said that the current federal civil rights investigation was launched shortly after unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white, six-year veteran of the Ferguson police force.

Related: Obama sends Holder to Ferguson as governor lifts curfew

Holder's visit was announced by President Barack Obama during a speech on Monday. The attorney general has pledged to meet in Missouri with FBI investigators, federal prosecutors, the U.S. Attorney's Office, as well as community leaders in city, which has been embroiled in chaos since the Aug. 9 shooting. In his message to the citizens of Ferguson, Holder said that he has been monitoring events closely, and that dozens of FBI agents and prosecutors have already interviewed "hundreds" of people in an attempt to learn more about Brown's death.

Holder also pointed out that, at his direction, an independent autopsy of Brown's body was conducted on Monday. A statement released by the Justice Department noted that the federal autopsy was performed "by one of the most experienced medical examiners in the United States military."

The attorney general is also vowing that the Justice Department will "defend the right of protesters to peacefully demonstrate and for the media to cover a story that must be told."

He added, however, that violence "cannot be condoned." Holder continued, "I urge the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to join with law enforcement in condemning the actions of looters, vandals and others seeking to inflame tensions and sow discord."

The attorney general was also careful to note that "At the same time, good law enforcement requires forging bonds of trust between the police and the public." Pointing to the fact that his own brother is a retired law enforcement officer, Holder underscored how fragile the trust is that exists between the public and those tasked to serve and protect them.

As he has many times in the past, Holder said that people must be treated equally under the law and police "should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve."

The Ferguson police force notably exhibits a startling lack of diversity. More than two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are black, but its police force and elected officials are "overwhelmingly" white. Of the 53 officers serving the city, only three are black. 

Holder also pledged in the article that the Justice Department will "continue to stand with the community" long after the events surrounding Brown's death have passed.