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What can Eric Holder do for Ferguson?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday with clear objectives: investigate the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown, ensure that there were no federal civil rights laws violated and help ease tensions the city.

Holder met with residents, community leaders and the Brown family hoping to, in his words, exert "a calming influence" through dialogue and face-to-face meetings. (Video via KSHB)

But it's not every day the nation's top law enforcement official and legal adviser to the president comes to visit. And given the circumstances, many people seem to have a few ideas of their own about what Holder needs to be doing with his time.

"What they need to hear from this black man in this position ... is that they need to stay out of trouble with the law. They need to pull up their pants, finish school and take care of their kids." 

>> Special section: Social unrest in Ferguson, Missouri

That was Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley specifically addressing how Holder should deal with "looters and rioters" in Ferguson amid consecutive nights of chaos. 

A Salon writer suggests this is Holder's moment to address racial inequity on a larger scale: "It’s time to utter the three words that have inflicted more racial injustice against black men than any other three words in the English lexicon: prison industrial complex." 

There's lots of talk about Holder trying to calm racial tensions. A Cornell University law professor told NBC,"He'll be able to mediate between the law enforcement community, which obviously sees Holder as being the highest law enforcement official in the country, and the African-American community, which knows that Holder is one of the highest ranking African-American officials in the whole country. ... That's not an explicitly legal function. It's more of a socio-political function."

But what sort of tangible action can Holder take to really influence things in Ferguson? 

Politico writer says some of what Holder can do is already being done: he's ordered an investigation, he's ordered (another) autopsy and he can take action against the Ferguson PD if he finds that they've been "violating people’s rights." But the writer adds, beyond that, Holder's authority is limited. 

>> Read more trending stories

If Holder were to take over the investigation to prosecute officer Darren Wilson, a Christian Science Monitor writer says that would be a mistake. "Legal analysts stress that a state prosecutor has significantly more flexibility to tailor a charge to a particular crime. ... In contrast, federal law would require Holder’s prosecutors to prove significantly more. ... Prosecutors would have to prove that Wilson deliberately acted with evil intent to deprive the teenager of his rights."

And Holder does have more political leeway to talk about race than, say, President Obama. The president has been criticized in the past for speaking about race, such as when he made remarks following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.  

But a Bloomberg correspondent says Holden can't seem biased, either. 

Peter Cook: "He has to walk a very fine line because he can't appear to take sides in this, just like the president. He has to appear that he hasn't conducted a rush to judgment."

Meanwhile, a grand jury examined evidence in the shooting death of Michael Brown Wednesday, but St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch told reporters it could be as long as two months before we know if charges will be brought against Wilson. 

This video contains images from Getty Images.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • A 15-year-old Florida teen is in custody at the U.S.-Canada border, hours after police discovered the body of a woman believed to be his missing grandmother in a shallow grave near the boy’s home, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported. Logan Tyler Mott was detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection as he tried to enter Canada from Buffalo, New York, sheriff’s deputies said. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office had called Mott “armed and dangerous” and a person of interest in the death of his grandmother, 53-year-old Kristina June French. Mott was being watched by French at her Neptune Beach home while his father, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office corrections officer, was on vacation. Mott’s mother, Carrie Campbell-Mott, said the boy’s father, Eric Mott, was on vacation with his girlfriend. Eric Mott took an Uber home from the airport Wednesday after French never showed up to get them, Campbell-Mott said. When they got home, the door to their home was open and the house was ransacked, Campbell-Mott said. Eric Mott's guns were missing from a gun safe, Campbell-Mott said. French’s home in the Mayport area also was ransacked. Her weapons were gone, along with her Dodge Dart. Mott and French were reported missing after Logan didn't show up to high school on Monday or Tuesday. French also didn't show up for work Monday or Tuesday. A warrant was issued for his arrest Thursday on a charge of auto theft, deputies said. Originally, deputies believed that Tyler Mott and French may have been traveling together in the Dodge Dart. A missing child alert was issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The teen and the missing vehicle were spotted Thursday on surveillance video in south central Pennsylvania, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported. In a statement, Campbell-Mott she was “relieved” that her son was in custody. “We just ask for everyone to give us time to sort out what happened,” Campbell-Mott said. “That no matter what, Logan is our child and we love him and are standing by him to help in any way. We want to find out what happened to Kristina and we need time for that to happen.” Campbell-Mott said a sheriff’s detective will fly to meet Logan on Saturday. In a statement, the May Institute, a nonprofit organization that employed French, said it was “truly devastated” to learn of her death. “Kristina was a friend and a role model to so many people. … She was a true champion for people with disabilities and advocated tirelessly for human rights. “We have lost a beautiful person and she will be dearly missed. It is a very sad day.”
  • UPDATE 11/24/17 11:16 pm: JSO says Logan Mott has been detained by US Customs and Border Protection, as he tried to enter Canada from the Buffalo, New York area. ORIGINAL STORY: It's a tragic update in the days-long search to find a missing 15-year-old and his grandmother.  The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announcing Friday afternoon they do believe foul play was involved, as they've recovered what they believe to be the body of 53-year-old Kristina French in the backyard of a Neptune Beach home connected to the two.  'The burial site was excavated today and human remains were located. They appear consistent with the description of Kristina French, but there will be no positive identification until the autopsy is completed by the medical examiner,' says JSO's Director of Investigations, Ron Lendvay.  At this point, JSO says 15-year-old Logan Mott is still missing, as is the silver Dodge Dart. Police say they do believe Mott is alive and in that vehicle.  'We have video surveillance of an individual we believe to be Logan Mott, with what we believe to be the car that's missing in this case, in south central Pennsylvania yesterday at 1:15 pm,' says Lendvay.  JSO says they're in the process of obtaining an arrest warrant for Mott for auto theft. He's also considered a person of interest in connection to the death of the person found in the backyard of the home on Seagate Avenue.  Police say Mott may also be in possession of firearms, as guns had been reported missing from that home, so if you do see him, you’re urged to call 911.
  • Phoenix teenager Jamal Hinton and grandmother Wanda Hence have turned their internet fame from 2016 into a tradition. >> Read more trending news Last year, Hence thought she was texting her grandson to invite him to dinner in a group text, but she was actually texting Jamal Hinton, 17. Hinton asked who was texting him and was told it was his grandmother. “I really thought it was my grandma, so I had to ask for a picture to make sure,” Hinton told BuzzFeed. The result was a selfie exchange from Hence to which Hinton replied, 'You're not my grandma!' But Hinton asked if he could still get a plate of food despite the mistake. Hence replied, “Of course you can. That's what grandmas do ... feed everyone.' KNXV reported that Hinton joined Hence’s family for dinner and is now her 'honorary grandson.' When Hinton arrived and shook Hence’s hand, the two soon embraced for a hug. 'I'd never seen her before and she welcomed me into her home,' Hinton told KNXV. 'That shows me how great of a person she is. I'm thankful for people like that.' 'He always has an open invite to our house for Thanksgiving,' Hence told WVEC Friday.   
  • Heads up, St. Johns County residents. The county says the St. Augustine Beach Pope Road beach access point will be closed beginning, Monday, November 27th, due to an Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment project.  That project is expected to last through spring 2018, with the Pope Road beach access point remaining closed that entire time.  The county say the renourishment will help critically-eroded areas between Anastasia State Park and 8th Street in St. Augustine Beach.  The beach will remain open outside of work areas, but you're urged to use caution in the area.  For more information, click HERE.
  • UPDATE Friday morning:  Logan Mott’s mother has posted a heartfelt message on Facebook, pleading for a safe return of her 15-year-old son and his grandmother, Kristina French.  UPDATE 11/23/17 5:40 PM: The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says there’s no new information to release. ORIGINAL STORY: A missing child alert has been issued for 15-year-old Logan Mott out of Neptune Beach.  The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Jacksonville Police believe Logan is in the company of his grandmother, 53-year-old Kristina French.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says firearms are missing from a home they are associated with. Our partners at Action News Jax spoke with Logan’s mother who says the home that had the firearms looked like it had been ransacked.  The two are believed to traveling in a 2015 silver Dodge Dart with Florida tag D-L-L-T-4-2.  JSO says with the firearms missing, you should not approach them if you see them. You are asked to call 911. This is a developing story, check back for more updates. 

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