Attorney General Eric Holder met with the family of Michael Brown on Wednesday, after spending the day speaking to law enforcement officials and members of the Ferguson, Missouri, community upended by the police killing of the unarmed black teenager.
The attorney general landed hours after an 11th night of protests against the killing. In a message to the people of Ferguson, published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Holder had promised a “fair and thorough” federal inquiry. Holder also planned to meet with community leaders.
He made his first stop Wednesday at the Florissant campus of St. Louis Community College, a few miles from where Brown was shot on Aug. 9. He met with about 50 students and other members of the community.
The attorney general spoke for 15 minutes and then took questions from the group. He said that he had assigned the Justice Department's "most experienced agents and prosecutors" to the investigation.
"We have seen a great deal of progress over the years," Holder told the group. "But we also see problems and these problems stem from mistrust and mutual suspicion."
Student Kiyanda Welch told the Associated Press that Holder talked to them about the unrest and their own interaction with police. Holder told the group "change is coming," Welch said.
Student Bradley Rayford, 22, told reporters that Holder asked them about local police practices. "He specifically wanted to know how we feel about the police department," said Rayford. "I really felt he was listening to us and took heed of what we were saying."
The nation's top law enforcement official even recounted stories of being racially profiled himself.
"I think about my time in Georgetown — a nice neighborhood of Washington — and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o'clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells 'Where you going? Hold it!' I say 'Woah, I'm going to a movie.' Now my cousin started mouthing off. I'm like, 'This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.' I'm angry and upset. We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie. At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn't a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice. So I've confronted this myself."
Holder then went to Drake's Place restaurant in Ferguson, where he ran into Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who has been hailed for his more sensitive response to the protests.
Holder got up and approached Johnson and said, "My man, you are the man," and they hugged. Johnson said "just trying to make it better," and the two stood and talked for a minute.
Holder next stopped by the St. Louis FBI office where he met with agents working the case as well as officials from the U.S. Attorney's office.
Several miles away, protesters gathered a county courthouse in the city of Clayton, where a grand jury heard evidence in the shooting. Protesters have demanded that the police officer, Darren Wilson, be prosecuted.
— Erin McClam and Hasani Gittens
First published August 20 2014, 9:11 AM