Congressional Black Caucus asks DOJ to take action after police shootings

Story highlights

  • The Congressional Black Caucus delivered a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch
  • Lynch expressed sorrow about the ongoing conflicts between law enforcement and people of color

(CNN)Congressional Black Caucus members demanded that the Justice Department "aggressively pursue investigations, indictments and prosecutions" regarding the recent deaths of two black men, which stemmed from fatal police shootings.

"We come to you today to urge you to aggressively pursue investigations, indictments and prosecutions through the Office of Civil Rights against any and all law enforcement officers who harm or kill innocent unarmed black men, women and children," said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, reading excerpts from a letter members later presented to Attorney General Loretta Lynch decrying violence.
    "We will not continue to ask our constituents to be patient without any hope for change," she added. "Madame Attorney General, you have the unique opportunity and constitutional responsibility to change this narrative."
    Caucus Chair G. K. Butterfield said the incidents this week are not isolated.
    "The Congressional Black Caucus is outraged with the dozens of unlawful police shootings that are taking place all across America involving unarmed, innocent African-American citizens," Butterfield told reporters.
    "If we were to identify each of these, it would consume this entire press conference," the North Carolina Democrat added.
    Multiple members of the group, which includes dozens of African-American members of Congress, have spoken out following the death of Terence Crutcher, who was shot and killed last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after his car broke down. The 40-year-old black man raised his hands above his head just before Officer Betty Shelby fatally shot him. Crutcher was unarmed at the time.
    "He posed no threat. He had no weapon. And yet he was confronted by the Tulsa Police Department and he was both tasered and shot to death," said New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman in a video posted on the caucus' page. "This is disgusting. And I am angry and I am hurt."
    In a news conference Thursday, Lynch expressed sorrow about the ongoing conflicts between law enforcement and people of color.
    "One of my top priorities as attorney general has been to do everything in my power to help heal those divides. And the Department of Justice will continue working tirelessly to protect the rights of all Americans," she said.
    "We have come together with thoughts and prayers far too many times for victims of violence -- civilians and law enforcement alike," she added.
    Multiple police officers and citizens have been injured this week during protests after the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer. Police say Scott was armed at the time he was fatally shot, but his family claims that he was reading a book in his vehicle when police officers approached and shot him.
    Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Thursday that the department would not be releasing a video of the encounter between Scott and law enforcement.
    Rep. Joyce Beatty told CNN's John Berman that lawmakers "can't be silent."
    "I think transparency is of the utmost. I understand the legalities. I understand that you have to have a full investigation," she said on "At This Hour."
    "We want to make sure that the US Department of Justice is engaged. We want to have independent investigators going into these communities so we take away all doubt or perceptions of the biases," the Ohio Democrat said. "We're losing too many lives."
    Both presidential candidates have spoken out this week about the need to improve the relationship between black communities and law enforcement.
    Hillary Clinton, who the Black Caucus' political action committee endorsed, addressed the shootings in a speech Wednesday in Orlando, Florida.
    "There is still much we don't know yet about what happened in both incidents. But we do know that we have two more names to add to a list of African-Americans killed by police officers in these encounters," Clinton said. "It's unbearable. And it needs to become intolerable."
    And Donald Trump said Wednesday he was "very troubled" by the fatal police shooting in Tulsa and suggested the officer in question "got scared" or was "choking," a slang term for failing under pressure.