WASHINGTON (AP) — The parents of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two black men who died in encounters with white police officers, joined with civil rights leaders on Thursday to call for a full federal investigation and charges against those involved in their deaths.
“I’m here to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s family,” said Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., who stood with leaders from the National Urban League, the National Action Network, the Black Women’s Roundtable and the NAACP at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
News of Attorney General Eric Holder’s upcoming resignation became public as they spoke, and some of the leaders were uncertain how that development might affect the prospects for a federal investigation.
“There’s a lot for us to calculate,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who expressed hope that Holder would announce full federal investigations into the deaths before he leaves office.
The civil rights organizations called on the Justice Department to intervene in the criminal investigations of the police officers responsible for Brown’s and Garner’s deaths. The younger Brown, 18, was shot and killed by a police officer last month in Ferguson, Missouri. Garner, 43, died July 17 following a confrontation with police on Staten Island, New York, who were attempting to question him about selling untaxed, loose cigarettes.
The activists noted the case of a South Carolina state trooper, Sean Groubert, who shot an unarmed man, Levar Jones, during a traffic stop on Sept. 4. Groubert has since been fired and arrested, a development the activists counted as a success but said it cannot be an aberration.
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said there were many other black men who have suffered unjustly at the hands of police officers whose cases are not as widely known as Brown’s and Garner’s.
“It’s time we got justice for these heinous crimes,” said Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr. Their children might have made mistakes, she said, but for those mistakes “the sentence wasn’t death.”
The civil rights organizations are calling for meetings with black lawmakers during the Congressional Black Caucus’ legislative conference underway in Washington this week. They also want congressional hearings and Congress to pass laws requiring police officers to wear body cameras. If police departments don’t want to use them, the federal government needs to cut off those departments’ federal funding, said Benjamin Crump, the Brown family’s lawyer and incoming president of the National Bar Association.
“This is a federal issue,” Crump said. “We need to have this Michael Brown law and have these body cameras.”