Justice Dept. moving to close Michael Brown investigation

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AP source: FBI completes federal civil rights probe of Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting.

WASHINGTON — A U.S. official says the FBI has finished its investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed, black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. WASHINGTON • The New York Times is reporting that the Justice Department has begun work on a legal memo recommending no civil rights charges against former Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.

The newspaper’s report cites unnamed law enforcement sources as saying the investigation by the FBI found no evidence to support such charges against Wilson, whose fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 touched off protests and civil unrest in Ferguson and around the nation. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that he planned to close both the civil rights investigation of Wilson and the investigation of the 2012 shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman before leaving the department. Federal investigators conducted a thorough review of the evidence, interviewing more than 200 individuals and analyzing cellphone video and audio, the Times reported. Louis County grand jury did not indict in November, the Post-Dispatch reported that a federal civil rights case would potentially be even more difficult to bring because the Department of Justice would have to prove that Wilson intentionally deprived Brown of his civil rights. The timing of his departure is dependent on the confirmation of nominee Loretta Lynch, who is scheduled for hearings next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Justice Department officials have said that in both cases, after local grand juries declined to indict, investigators must meet a high legal bar to charge officers with civil rights violations. “We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York,” Obama said. “But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Three law enforcement officials discussed the details of the federal investigation on condition of anonymity because the report was incomplete and Holder and his top civil rights prosecutor, Vanita Gupta, had not formally made a decision.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Michael Brown’s family, told USA TODAY Wednesday that neither he nor the Brown family has been informed of the Justice Department’s decision. “The last we heard from them, they were still investigating,” Crump said. “We won’t respond to rumors and speculation because it’s too much to put the family through. President Barack Obama, Holder and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, speaking about the issue in personal terms, said they understood the concern that minority neighborhoods had with the police.

Holder resisted calls from local officials to announce his conclusion alongside the county prosecutor last year, in part because he did not want it to appear as if they had reached their decisions together. Though the local authorities and Brown’s family had autopsies done, Holder ordered a separate autopsy, which was conducted by pathologists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner’s Office at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the officials said. Soon after the shooting, witnesses told reporters that Brown had his hands up in a gesture of surrender when he was shot and killed by Wilson on a city street. Wilson told investigators Brown tussled with him through the window of his police car and tried to grab his gun, an account supported by bruises and DNA evidence. Wilson testified Brown charged at him, and other witnesses backed up his account. “I’m backpedaling pretty good because I know if he reaches me, he’ll kill me,” Wilson told a state grand jury, in testimony that investigators said was consistent with what he told the FBI. “And he had started to lean forward as he got that close, like he was going to just tackle me, just go right through me,” Wilson said.

Residents told investigators that the police used traffic citations in minority neighborhoods as a way to raise money for the city. “These anecdotal accounts underscored the history of mistrust of law enforcement in Ferguson,” Holder said in September after returning from Ferguson, a suburb about 10 miles northwest of St.

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