Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday night that a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown will continue despite a St. Louis County grand jury’s decision to not indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.
Holder noted that federal civil rights cases have a “high legal bar,” but said federal investigators have “resisted forming premature conclusions.”
“Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now,” Holder said in a statement. “Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence.”
He added that the Justice Department is also still investigating allegations of misconduct by the Ferguson Police Department
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Holder’s statement came as protests in Ferguson, Missouri turned violent Monday night and as police officers fired successive volleys of tear gas at demonstrators. Some in the crowd also took advantage of the unrest to damage storefronts and loot local businesses.
“Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence,” Holder said. “Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully. It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting.”
Holder also urged law enforcement to respect protesters’ rights and “deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays – and uses – of force.”