U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) called on Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray to launch a federal investigation into the disappearance and death of Jelani Day, a 25-year-old Illinois State University graduate student who was reported missing on August 25. While police found his car two days later and recovered his body from the Illinois River on September 4, it took an additional 19 days — and intense public outcry — before his body was identified.
“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. The circumstances surrounding Day’s death are strikingly similar to past lynchings of Black Americans, both male, and female,” Rush wrote in the letter. Rush is the lead sponsor of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act (H.R. 55).
Rush pointed out the differences in the FBI’s treatment of Day’s case compared to that of Gabby Petito, who went missing around the same time as Day. “Appropriately, the FBI has aggressively pursued justice for Petito, and Day’s family deserves the same urgency as they continue to seek answers to the many questions surrounding his tragic death,” Rush wrote.
“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,” said Rush. Rush pointed out that while Black people make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise nearly 30 percent of missing person reports.
“The urgency of these cases and our continued shared interest injustice 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.”
In July, Rush called on Garland and Wray to establish a task force to address a growing backlog of unsolved missing person and murder cases, specifically those involving minority women and children. In April, Rush convened a panel discussion about missing Black women and girls in the Chicago area.