Attorney General Loretta Lynch told law enforcement union leaders Friday that it’s unlikely the Justice Department will pursue hate crime charges in Thursday’s Dallas shooting of police officers, Yahoo News has learned, because the suspect in the crime is dead.
Lynch told the leaders in the 45-minute meeting that a hate crime investigation would be on the table if more suspects are discovered, according to a police union official at the meeting. So far, investigators have said that evidence suggests the suspect, Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old Army veteran, acted alone. “We continue to have faith that the attorney general is going to take this as far as it goes,” the police union official said.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said Friday morning the suspect in the murders of five police officers said he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” The suspect told police he was not affiliated with any group and that he was upset by recent police shootings of black men. Police later killed him with a robot-operated bomb.
Leaders of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents more than 300,000 police officers, pressed Lynch during the meeting to consider investigating the crime as a hate crime. They also shared their concerns about the tone of the racially charged debate around police-involved shootings.
The federal hate crimes statute applies to offenders targeting people based upon their “actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin.” (Sexual orientation and gender identity were added to the list in 2009.) In 2014, 23 percent of federal racial hate crimes were motivated by anti-white bias, with 64 percent motivated by anti-black bias. The police union has unsuccessfully pushed for Congress to include police officers in the hate crime statute. Hate crimes typically carry stiffer punishments than regular crimes.
The New York Post reported Friday citing anonymous sources that the Justice Department would consider launching an investigation into the shootings as a hate crime.
But Melanie Newman, a Justice Department spokesperson, called that report “absolutely not true.”
“We have no updates or announcements on any investigations at this time,” she said.
Lynch spoke about the shootings Friday afternoon, urging people not to resort to violence and to come together as Americans. She praised Dallas police for protecting the protesters’ right to demonstrate, and she commended protesters of police violence, for trying to make their country better. “To our brothers and sisters who wear the badge, I want you to know that I am deeply grateful for the difficult and dangerous work that you do every day to keep our streets safe and our nation secure,” she said. “Our hearts are broken by this loss. And the Department of Justice will do all that we can to support you in the days ahead.”