Feds Probe Police Scandal

FBI launching civil rights investigation into Derek Williams' death

CREATED Oct 10, 2012 - UPDATED: Oct 11, 2012

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  • Photo: Derek Williams

MILWAUKEE - The FBI is launching a civil rights investigation into the death of Derek Williams, who died while in Milwaukee police custody last year.

Video released in September shows Williams, who was under arrest for robbery, in the back of a squad car, pleading for officers to help him, saying he couldn't breathe.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner changed the cause of death of Williams from natural causes to homicide.

"The medical examiner's reclassification of the cause of death...we believe warrants a federal investigation," said FBI Milwaukee Special Agent in Charge Teresa Carlson during a press conference Wednesday.  "We have all seen the video, and it is extremely difficult to watch."

Carlson says the FBI's mission is to fully investigate the night Williams died -- July, 6 2011 -- and to do so as objectively as possible.  Carlson says that when they finish that investigation, they will present their findings to federal prosecutors.  She says it is then up to federal prosecutors if they want to pursue any criminal charges.

She didn't layout a timetable on how long the investigation will take, but said they will investigate as "expeditiously as possible."

In a statement Wednesday, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said he has told federal officials they are open to the investigation and will cooperate fully.

Meanwhile, a special prosecutor has been appointed for the Milwaukee County District Attorney's investigation into Williams' death.

U.S. Attorney James Santelle said they are also considering a formal investigation into a possible pattern of civil rights abuses by the department.

Calls were made for MPD Chief Flynn's resignation about the Derek Williams case.

After public scrutiny in the case and some threats toward the MPD, two officers were assigned to each MPD squad car.