CINCINNATI (AP) — The new head of the FBI’s Cincinnati division says agents are conducting a thorough review of last year’s fatal police shooting of a black man in a suburban Dayton Wal-Mart store.
Angela Byers, who became the division’s special agent in charge in February, said in an Associated Press interview that agents are working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to take “a double look” at the case in the context of federal laws “to make sure there’s nothing more that we feel at the federal level needs to be done.
“That involves getting everything from the first case and going through it with a fine-tooth comb,” she said Wednesday at her office in suburban Cincinnati. “So that takes a while.”
Federal authorities announced plans for an independent review after a grand jury declined in September to indict officers in the Aug. 5 death of 22-year-old John Crawford III. Police said they believed he had a rifle in the crowded store and he didn’t respond to repeated commands to put it down. It was an air rifle.
FBI agents could interview witnesses and police officers as part of their review. Byers declined to discuss details of what the agency is doing, saying it’s “an ongoing investigation.”
FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren said the FBI review involves a lead investigator with five agents in supporting roles, with other support as needed from the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit at bureau headquarters. A supervisory special agent participates in meetings with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Justice Department, he said.
Prosecutors would need to satisfy a rigorous standard for a federal civil rights violation case, proving that the officers willfully deprived Crawford of his civil rights. Courts often give police wide latitude in using deadly force when they feel under threat.
The City of Beavercreek said last year it had requested an FBI review, although the city felt its officers did what they were trained to do.
Crawford’s parents said they met last week in Cincinnati with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch after a forum on community policing reforms by that city’s police department in the aftermath of 2001 race riots there. They said Lynch didn’t provide a lot of information on the federal probe.
“It was more of a feel of, ‘I’ve got to show these people some type of sympathy, some type of understanding,'” John Crawford Jr. told WLWT-TV of Cincinnati.
The family’s attorney, Michael Wright, said the federal review is encouraging.
“We are happy that there is an independent investigation and an independent eye on all the facts in this case,” Wright said Thursday.
Crawford’s family has filed a civil lawsuit against Beavercreek, its police and Wal-Mart.
The case continues to spur protests. A group calling itself Black Lives Matter Miami Valley plans a Friday afternoon demonstration outside the Dayton federal building, saying it wants justice in the case.
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