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Congressman Rush calls for federal investigation of Jelani Day’s death

U.S. Rep. Rush wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray

An Illinois congressman has joined in the call to launch a federal investigation into the death of Jelani Day.

The same day the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH coalition led a march in Peru, U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Chicago, wrote a letter urging Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray to launch the investigation. The Peru Police Department, La Salle Police Department, Bloomington Police Department, La Salle County Sheriff’s Office and Illinois State Police are working together in the death investigation.

Day, 25, an Illinois State University graduate student, was reported missing Aug. 25 and found dead Sept. 4 in the Illinois River. His body was identified Sept. 23.

“As I learned the details of Day’s case, I was reminded of the lynching of Emmett Till, whose body was found floating in a river in 1955 and still, decades later, no one has been held legally accountable for his death,” Rush said in a press release. “The circumstances surrounding Day’s death are strikingly similar to past lynchings of Black Americans, both male and female.”

Rush is the lead sponsor of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act (H.R. 55).

Rush pointed out the differences in the FBI’s treatment of Day’s case compared to that of Gabby Petito, who went missing around the same time as Day.

”Appropriately, the FBI has aggressively pursued justice for Petito, and Day’s family deserves the same urgency as they continue to seek answers to the many questions surrounding his tragic death,” Rush wrote. “It is far too often the case that the police and media response around missing people of color, specifically Black Americans, is often slow, fleeting, and apathetic.”

Rush said said Black people make up 13% of the U.S. population, but they comprise nearly 30% of missing persons reports.

“The urgency of these cases and our continued shared interest in justice are the most compelling reasons to launch a federal investigation into the disappearance and death of Jelani Day and the increased number of victims of color around the country,” Rush wrote. “It is critical that you do everything in your power to ensure that all missing people are afforded the same level of attention, regardless of their race.”

Go to http://rush.house.gov/sites/evo-subsites/rush.house.gov/files/evo-media-document/Letter%20from%20Rep.%20Rush%20on%20Jelani%20Day.pdf the full text of Rush’s letter.

In July, Rush urged Garland and Wray to establish a task force to address a growing backlog of unsolved missing person and murder cases, specifically those involving minority women and children. In April, Rush convened a panel discussion about missing Black women and girls in the Chicago area.

The La Salle County Coroner’s Office said Monday the cause of Day’s death was drowning following analysis of a forensic autopsy. Authorities said they will continue to investigate how Day drowned. Day’s mother Carmen Bolden Day said Tuesday during a march in Peru she doesn’t believe Day harmed himself or drowned accidentally, because he was an avid swimmer and didn’t have any depression issues. The Day family believes someone harmed the graduate student.