Federal charges still possible in Ferguson case

Federal charges still possible in Ferguson case
Demonstrators hold their hands up as they protest against the verdict announced in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

WASHINGTON - After a Missouri grand jury did not charge a white police officer with any crime in the shooting death of black teen Michael Brown, his family and supporters are pinning their hopes on federal charges.

The Justice Department quickly opened its own investigations in the wake of the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown, who was unarmed, by Officer Darren Wilson in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson.

One arm of the probe is to determine whether Wilson violated Brown's civil rights.

The second is looking at whether the Ferguson police department as a whole engages in racial profiling or employs excessive force.

After protesters looted Ferguson businesses and set fire to buildings Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder tried to reassure residents disappointed in the legal system.

"The department's investigations will continue to be thorough," Holder said. "They will continue to be independent and they remain ongoing." He said he hoped the probes could "restore trust" between law enforcement and members of the community.

In August, after Brown was shot dead and Ferguson was convulsed by violence, Holder quickly visited the town and said he understood how black residents were wary of the mainly white police force.

"I understand that mistrust. I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man," he said.

After the grand jury decision was made public, President Barack Obama said that the situation in Ferguson "speaks to the broader challenges that we still face as a nation." "A deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of colour," said Obama, America's first black president.

Nevertheless, more than three months after Brown's death, the Obama administration has announced no charges and leaks to the US media suggest federal cases may not be forthcoming.

St Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch said federal and local authorities had shared all information in their parallel investigations and that the evidence had not been sufficient to indict Wilson.

Holder, who has been seen as a champion of civil rights during his tenure as the nation's first black attorney general, is due to leave office soon.

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