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  • 20 August 2014, 22:07

Missouri: Eric Holder Arrives Amid Protests

US Attorney General Eric Holder has arrived in Missouri, where protesters are calling for a new prosecutor to oversee the case of slain teenager Michael Brown.

Mr Holder first met with community leaders before sitting down with federal agents already in Ferguson investigating the officer-involved shooting death of the unarmed black teen.

He also met with Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson who has been tasked with overseeing the large police force in the area.

During their brief encounter, the attorney general praised Capt Johnson's for his work in easing tensions in Ferguson.

"It takes leadership, though. You and the (National Guard) colonel, I think, have put in place a good plan," Mr Holder said.

"And I think that if we sustain that and if we get community involvement, we can turn it around."

In an open letter to the community published before his arrival, Mr Holder promised that the Department of Justice's probe into Mr Brown's death would be "fair" and "independent".

He also pledged to "work with the police, civil rights leaders, and members of the public to ensure that this tragedy can give rise to new understanding - and robust action - aimed at bridging persistent gaps between law enforcement officials and the communities we serve".

Mr Holder's arrival comes after more than a week of unrest in the St Louis suburb, and coincides with fresh calls from local citizens for the county prosecutor to recuse himself from the case.

On Wednesday, a small group of protesters gathered outside the St Louis County Justice Center in nearby Clayton, where a grand jury is expected to consider possible charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The roughly two dozen protesters chanted, prayed and held signs calling for county prosecutor Bob McCulloch to relinquish control of the case to a special prosecutor.

African-American community leaders cite Mr McCulloch's deep family connections to police and question his ability to be impartial in the case of Ofc Wilson - the white officer who fatally shot Mr Brown on August 9.

They also point to the 1964 shooting death of Mr McCulloch's father, a former St Louis police officer who was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect.

Mr McCulloch, who is white, has insisted his background will have no bearing on the handling of the Brown case.

The teen's death has touched off days of rancorous nighttime protests, which have seen the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police to quell rioting and violence.

Events on Tuesday night were more subdued with smaller crowds, fewer confrontations and no tear gas.

Meanwhile, Mr Brown's funeral services have been scheduled to take place on Monday.

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