PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights inquiry into the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.
U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton and Arthur Balizan, FBI special agent in charge in Oregon, announced the inquiry into the shooting of Aaron Campbell on Thursday, saying it began Tuesday.
They called it "routine practice to open a preliminary inquiry into an officer-involved shooting of this nature."
The Jan. 29 shooting of Campbell by Officer Ronald Frashour drew a march on City Hall earlier this week, as well as a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The veteran civil rights leader termed the shooting "an execution."
"The role of the Department of Justice at this point is very specific: to make inquiry as to whether there has been a criminal violation of civil rights," Holton and Balizan said in a statement.
Earlier Thursday, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman told a group of African American leaders that he would support such an investigation but didn't expect it would show any violations of Campbell's civil rights. Saltzman is the commissioner in charge of Portland police.
Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Rosie Sizer have pledged a full review and released recordings of 911 calls and a 630-page report on the police investigation. Nearly 500 pages of Multnomah County grand jury testimony have been released as well.
The grand jury ruled the deadly use of force fell within guidelines but took the unusual step of writing a letter to District Attorney Michael Schrunk, saying "something went terribly, terribly wrong."
The 911 recordings indicate that officers were called to an apartment building by relatives of Campbell's girlfriend, who were concerned because they couldn't reach her. The relatives were worried that the 25-year-old Campbell was suicidal, distraught over the death that day of his younger brother from heart disease.
Witness accounts indicate Campbell emerged from his girlfriend's apartment with his hands behind his head, walking backward. At some point he was shot with several police beanbag rounds. Frashour told investigators he believed Campbell was reaching toward his waistband for a weapon.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
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