ST. LOUIS: The US Attorney-General, Eric Holder, launched the most concerted federal response yet about the shooting of Michael Brown yesterday, pledging a swift and thorough investigation into the killing of the unarmed Missouri teenager by a Ferguson police officer.
In an opinion piece for the St Louis Post-Dispatch that appeared as he arrived in Ferguson to meet local community leaders, Holder sharply criticised both the violence of protesters and police behaviour that many blame for sparking the unrest.
“Good law enforcement requires forging bonds of trust between the police and the public. This trust is all-important, but it is also fragile. It requires that force be used in appropriate ways,” he wrote.
“Enforcement priorities and arrest patterns must not lead to disparate treatment under the law, even if such treatment is unintended. And police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.”
The FBI announced last week that it was carrying out an investigation into the shooting of Brown on August 9, which will determine whether it amounted to a civil rights violation. It may also be widened to examine police practices in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis. Holder said that in addition to 40 FBI agents, who had interviewed “hundreds” of people, he had deployed “some of the civil rights division’s most experienced prosecutors” to lead the investigation.
County prosecutors in St Louis are leading the investigation into whether the killing of Brown, by Ferguson police officer Darrren Wilson, was a crime. A grand jury began hearing evidence from that investigation yesterday.
St Louis experienced a relatively peaceful night despite anger over an earlier shooting by police. Ron Johnson, a highway patrol captain who has been put in charge of policing the Ferguson protests, told a 2am press conference yesterday that officers arrested 47 people and recovered three loaded handguns. No shots were fired from the crowd and police were not forced to deploy teargas, he said.
Some trouble broke out: Plastic and glass bottles were thrown, including some with urine, according to police. Officers faced off against dozens of chanting youths and occasionally lunged into the crowd to seize individuals, spraying some with pepper gas.