Holder promises full and fair investigation in Ferguson

August 20, 2014 at 6:31 PM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: The nation’s top law enforcement officer traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, today.

Hari Sreenivasan has our story on the latest efforts to ease the unrest.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Attorney General Holder arrived with twin goals: to help calm the community and check on the ongoing federal investigation.

ERIC HOLDER, Attorney General: Why would I be anyplace other than right here right now to talk to people in this area who are deserving of our attention? And we want to help as best we can. And we also want to listen. That’s the main part of this trip. We want to listen to hear about the issues that you all are dealing with and see, are there ways in which we can help?

HARI SREENIVASAN: Holder also met with the family of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot on August 9 by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. A federal civil rights investigation into the shooting is now under way, and Holder received an update during his visit.

Overnight, in a message published on the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch Web site, he promised a complete review. “Our investigation into this matter will be full,” he said, “it will be fair, and it will be independent.”

Some in Ferguson have called for officer Wilson — shown in this newly released video — to be charged with murder. But this morning, the head of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police defended him.

KEVIN AHLBRAND, President, Missouri Fraternal Order Of Police: He has been vilified in the media and by the politicians. And we felt it was necessary that we had to come out and just ask for due process for Darren Wilson.

HARI SREENIVASAN: At the same time, protesters have demanded that county prosecutor Bob McCulloch step aside. His father was a policeman and was killed on a call involving a black suspect. Today, McCulloch said he’s staying.

BOB MCCULLOCH, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney: Some legitimately believe, or honestly believe, I should say, that they don’t think I’m best suited for this case. And that’s fine. I understand that. Nobody’s — not everybody is always happy with what’s going on. So — but what I’m trying to convey to them is that I have got that responsibility. I’m not walking away from it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The prosecutor also said a grand jury investigation starting today could last until October.

PROTESTERS: Justice for you and me! Justice for Mike Brown.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, officials hoped last night’s more subdued protests mean the violence that’s plagued Ferguson is subsiding. Things were mostly peaceful, although police did arrest at least 47 people, mostly for refusing to disperse.

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson has been overseeing police operations.

RON JOHNSON, Captain, Missouri State Highway Patrol: We saw a different dynamic. Protest crowds were a bit smaller, and they were out earlier. We had to respond to fewer incidents than the night before. There were no Molotov cocktails tonight. There were no shootings.

HARI SREENIVASAN: More local leaders were on the streets last night, trying to maintain calm. Attorney General Holder spent time with some of those leaders today and with local elected officials.