WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday promised the family of an unarmed black teenager shot by police in Missouri a full, independent civil rights investigation of his death.
Holder’s promise came in a telephone call with the family of 18-year-old Michael Brown. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that Holder spoke to the Brown family while they visited the U.S. attorney’s office in Missouri. The official was not authorized to be identified by name and requested anonymity to discuss Holder’s call.
Brown was shot by a police officer on Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri. The St. Louis suburb is 70 percent black but is patrolled by a nearly all-white police force. Protests have followed the incident, some of them violent and involving clashes between demonstrators and police in riot gear.
In his call to the Brown family, Holder expressed his personal condolences for the teenager’s death and said that the Justice Department was investigating.
Earlier Thursday, Holder said in a statement that says he’s concerned that the use of military equipment by police in Ferguson was sending a “conflicting message” and that the response by law enforcement to protests “must seek to reduce tensions, not heighten them.”
Ferguson law enforcement authorities accepted the Justice Department’s offer of crowd-control help as it continued to investigate the shooting, Holder said. Representatives from the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, which works to mediate race disputes, has been sent to Missouri.
The FBI and Justice Department were conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting. Holder said eyewitnesses had already been interviewed.