Bloomington, Illinois, Police
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump demands that the FBI take full control of the investigation into the death of Jelani “JJ” Day.
“As we approach 100 days with no response, we call on the FBI to investigate this matter as a hate crime,” Crump said at a press conference Friday. “The family is losing faith in the local authorities – they want answers.” Several state and local agencies as well as the FBI investigated the case.
Day, an Illinois State University medical student, went missing on August 24. A month later, officials confirmed the 25-year-old black man was found dead in the Illinois River. Her death was ruled as drowning, but it is still unclear how Day ended up in the river.
“None of that counts,” said Crump, who was joined in Chicago by co-counsel B’Ivory LaMarr; Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day; and Civil Rights Leader Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Two days after Day went missing, his car was found in Peru, Illinois, a town an hour north of where Day lived in Bloomington.
Day’s family, who suspect a homicide, rejected suggestions that the cause of death was suicide.
“Jelani wasn’t depressed, he wasn’t overwhelmed,” Bolden Day said.
Crump joins Day’s mother in urging authorities to show the same urgency for Day’s case that has been demonstrated in white-focused ones like that of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman who was reported missing in September. After her remains were found in a Wyoming national park, the FBI later concluded that she had been murdered.
“Day’s case has received much less attention, revealing a deeply concerning disparity in the way missing person cases are handled and covered for people of color,” said Crump. in a report.
A moving Bolden Day explained the work she did to investigate her son’s death on her own in the absence of resources that had been devoted to Petito. “I didn’t have all the drones, I didn’t have all the police, I didn’t have all of this – I still don’t have this,” she said.
Crump has represented the families of several black people in high-profile civil rights cases, including Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, both killed by police.