In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Rep. Bobby Rush requested a federal review of the disappearance and death of Illinois graduate student Jelani Day. A student at Illinois State University, Day went missing at the end of August. It took several weeks before officials could identify him, but many questions remain unanswered.
“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 wrote. “The circumstances surrounding Day’s death are strikingly similar to past lynchings of Black Americans, both male and female.”
He said the collective interest in justice required corrective action to address missing person cases involving Black and other people of color.
“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 continued. “Since August 2021, 24 Black men have been reported missing, and families like those of Daniel Robinson, Douglas Graham Wesbee, Wilfred Kennerson III, and numerous others are seeking answers to the unusual circumstances surrounding their disappearances.”
He wanted to see the FBI approach the Day case with the same attention and effort as the case of Gabby Petito. According to Rush, the attention and effort in the Petito case were appropriate, but other missing people deserve the same measures.
Rush has previously called for a task force to investigate the number of missing Black women and girls. Block Club Chicago reported the call to action came on the 20th anniversary of the case of the Back in 2011, during a summit on missing children, Rush demanded answers from law enforcement and the regional FBI where it concerns Black and Latino children.
The official request from Rush comes just weeks after members of Day’s fraternity made a similar plea. The Brothers of the Nu Epsilon chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity at Alabama A&M University launched a petition for federal law enforcement intervention.
Day’s family also have requested a third autopsy to address discrepancies between the first autopsy and a second independent autopsy.
“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 concluded. “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.”
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