President Obama in a statement released late Tuesday afternoon offered his "deepest condolences" to the family of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, last weekend.
"The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time," the president said. "As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed."
Obama acknowledged the "strong passions" the tragedy has unleashed in the Missouri community and in communities across the nation, and cautioned everyone to act cautiously and thoughtfully.
"As details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding," the president said. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve."
Local residents have been protesting the racially charged shooting and have faced off with the police in Ferguson, where African-Americans comprise more than half of the population and more than 90 percent of law enforcement officers are white.
Holder, in a statement released Monday, said the shooting incident deserves a "fulsome review," and although the FBI will participate in the investigation, its work would "supplement, rather than supplant," the local authorities' inquiry.
"At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right. I will continue to receive regular updates on this matter in the coming days. Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve," he said.
In a letter to the attorney general, Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee; Rep. Marcia Fudge, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus; and Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay argue that the DOJ should head up the investigation.
The St. Louis County Police Department "may not be the most objective or credible body to investigate civil rights matters involving law enforcement," they wrote, based on recent "evidence of racial profiling" that Clay has already asked the DOJ to investigate. In addition, the lawmakers contend, "only the federal government has the resources, the experience and the full independence to give this case the close scrutiny that the citizens of Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area deserve."
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