The FBI has launched investigation for the death of a black teenager in Missouri
The outrage that lead to the death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed on Saturday by an unidentified police officer in Ferguson, Mo., a small, predominantly African-American city just outside St. Louis. His death immediately sparked outrage, with protests and vigils beginning that day and showing no sign of abating on Monday. The reaction took a violent turn on Sunday, as some protesters began looting businesses in the Ferguson area over several hours, leaving a trail of broken glass and burned-out storefronts in their wake.
It is still unclear what exactly happened when Brown was killed on Saturday. Police have said that it appears that he was shot following a physical altercation with a police officer at his cruiser and a struggle involving the officer’s gun. But authorities have not said what exactly resulted in Brown being shot multiple times nearly three dozen feet from the officer’s car.
Cheryl Mimura, an FBI special agent in St. Louis, said that the bureau was opening an investigation into any potential civil rights violations that may have occurred.
“Just because we’ve opened a case doesn’t meant there is a civil rights violation, it’s to determine whether or not there has been a civil rights violation,” Mimura said on Monday morning.
This investigation will be conducted separately from one being carried out by the St. Louis County police, she said. But the FBI will also continue to monitor the county’s investigation as well.
Attorney General Eric Holder has instructed attorneys in the Department of Justice’s civil rights division “to monitor developments relating to the shooting incident,” department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in an e-mail to The Washington Post.
The St. Louis County Police Department said it is investigating the shooting at the request of the Ferguson police and has promised an impartial investigation since none of its officers were involved. Ferguson is in St. Louis County.
“I want to assure you that this is a very complicated investigation, as it should be,” Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County police, said during a news conference on Monday. “A man lost his life. There’s a police officer involved in this. We need to make sure this investigation is done right.”
An autopsy of Brown showed that he was “struck several times by gunfire,” Belmar said Monday. The autopsy was carried out on Sunday, the day after Brown was killed, and his body was returned to his family for burial.
Brown’s family recalled him as a “gentle giant” on Monday, the same day he was set to start school at Vatterott College, a trade school.
“He fixed things,” Lesley McSpadden, his mother, told USA Today. “He didn’t create problems. He fixed things. My son was sweet. He didn’t mean any harm to anybody.”
News that the FBI would conduct its own investigation came as the shooting — and the ensuing violence — drew national attention. There have been multiple public gatherings since Brown was killed, with protesters marching and chanting near the Ferguson police headquarters again on Monday.
The looting on Sunday night was the work of only part of the crowd that had gathered to protest, Belmar said. He said the police got thousands of calls for shots fired, burglaries and assaults, among other things. Businesses including a Wal-Mart were looted, while a photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch documented a burning convenience store.
Hundreds of police officers responded to the looting on Sunday night, arresting 32 people in total, according to the St. Louis County police. Two officers suffered relatively minor injuries. The people who were arrested could be facing charges of assault, burglary and larceny, a spokesman said.
Brown’s death comes just weeks after Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island man, died after being placed in a chokehold by a New York City police officer. The National Bar Association has called for an investigation into the deaths of both Brown and Garner. This is the only way that “the African American community’s faith in law enforcement can be strengthened,” Pamela Meanes, president of the association, said in a statement.
“The death of yet another African-American at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community where he lived is heartbreaking,” Cornell William Brooks, president and chief executive of the NAACP, said in a statement.
Several elected officials in Missouri called for investigations into Brown’s death. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and the state’s two U.S. senators all called for a “transparent” examinations of what happened, as did authorities and groups in the St. Louis area.