Ferguson, Aug. 20 (Reuters): US attorney-general Eric Holder was visiting Ferguson, Missouri, today, hours after nearly 50 protesters were arrested in the 11th straight night of demonstrations over the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.
The St. Louis County prosecutor’s office will also begin presenting evidence today to a regularly seated grand jury investigating the August 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch said his office could continue presenting evidence to the grand jury through mid-October as he confronts conflicting pressures for speed and thoroughness.
“On one side, people are saying you’re rushing to justice, and on the other side, they’re saying you’re dragging this thing out,” he said at a news conference. “We’re going to present this as expeditiously as possible, but we are not going to present it in a half-hearted manner.”
Outside McCulloch’s office, a few dozen protesters called for him to be removed from the case and for the immediate arrest of the officer involved in the shooting. The officer, 28-year-old Darren Wilson, has been placed on leave and gone into seclusion.
“The criminal justice system in America ... is as racist as it was 50 years ago,” said 62-year-old African-American minister Stanton Holliday, who said he was a longtime civil rights activist and was concerned that prosecutors were taking too long.
Holder said he planned to visit Ferguson, a predominantly black St. Louis suburb of 21,000 residents, to be briefed on the progress of a separate civil rights investigation he has ordered into the Brown killing.
In Ferguson, some said they hoped Holder’s visit would lead to a speedy arrest and prosecution of the police officer involved in the shooting, while others cautioned against hasty justice.
Jason Schmidt, a 28-year-old black man who works for a temporary agency, said he hoped the federal government’s involvement would lead to “the killer paying for his actions.
“...If this was done to any other race, to any other place, in any other situation, I don't think it would have taken this long to get justice,” Schmidt said.
Another resident, 66-year-old retired Vietnam War veteran Walter Garrett, also black, called for patience.