Members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Monday asked Attorney General Eric Holder pursue a formal investigation into the "civil rights ramifications" of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, which has prompted riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
In a letter to Holder, CBC members said the shooting raises "potentially serious concerns, particularly because it may be part of a continuing pattern of the use of deadly force by police against unarmed African-Americans."
Attorney General Eric Holder has been asked by members of the Congressional Black Caucus to examine the civil rights aspect of the shooting death in Missouri that has sparked rioting. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
"While we appreciate that the facts are still coming to light in this case and we do not pre-judge the incident, we believe that the seriousness of the incident requires intervention by federal law enforcement agencies and we are heartened to learn of the parallel federal investigation that you announced today," they wrote.
The letter specifically asked Holder to expand the federal investigation and ensure Justice has "sufficient resources to investigate the legal and civil rights ramifications of the shooting and surrounding circumstances." It also asked Holder to examine whether there are any patterns of police misconduct by the Ferguson Police Department.
On Monday, Holder announced that Justice would run an investigation into the matter that "will supplement, rather than supplant" the local investigation. But the CBC letter said that may not be good enough — it said local police "may not be the most objective or credible body to investigate civil rights matters" in light of past evidence of racial profiling.
According to press reports, Brown was shot after he assaulted a police officer, and police say there was a struggle to gain control of the officer's weapon. But the CBC letter says "community members have expressed strong skepticism and outrage about this explanation."
"According to one eyewitness account, several shots hit Mr. Brown as he attempted to flee with his hands in the air, suggesting discrepancies with the St. Louis County Policy account," they wrote. "More broadly, press reports suggest that Mr. Brown's shooting may be symptomatic of larger racial tensions in Ferguson."
It argued that if a pattern of misconduct exists at the local level, "such misconduct would be a clear violation of federal law." The letter was signed by Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), and William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.).
Read the CBC letter to Holder here: