Illinois Rep. Calls For Federal Investigation Into Jelani Day’s Death

In Summary

Representative Bobby Rush is calling for the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate Jelani Day's death.  

U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) s has called for a federal investigation into the death of Jelani Day.  

BNC obtained a letter Rush addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Way on October 26. Kristen Clark, the head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, also received a copy of the letter.  

Day was last seen on the campus of Illinois State University on Aug. 24 before being reported missing one day later. According to police, his car was found in Peru, Illinois, and agencies began searching for him in the area. A little more than a week later on Sept. 4, a male body was found “near the south bank of the Illinois River,” but it wasn’t identified as Day until Sept. 23.   

RELATED: ‘Justice for Jelani Day’: County Coroner Determines Cause of Death  

On Monday, a coroner determined his cause of death as drowning, but it remains unclear how he got in the water. Rush said Day’s death reminded him of lynchings of Black men in the past. “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,” Rush wrote. “The circumstances surrounding Day’s death are strikingly similar to past lynchings of Black Americans, both male and female.”  

The Illinois representative also compared the response to Day’s case to that of white woman Gabby Petito, whose case garnered national media attention for weeks. Like others, Rush called out the FBI for dedicating more time and resources to Petito’s case compared to missing Black and Brown people.  

RELATED: Celebration of Life Held for Jelani Day in His Hometown 

“In a similar case, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been leading the investigation into the disappearance of Gabby Petito, who went missing around the same time as Jelani Day,” Rush said. “While the outcome was also unfortunate and tragic, I am hopeful that having received timely answers will provide her family a level of comfort and closure. 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.” 

RELATED: Jelani Day’s Mother Highlights Racial Disparities in Handling of Case 

Rush is urging the DOJ and the FBI to investigate Day’s death. “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,” he wrote in the letter. “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.”  

RELATED: Activists Address Racial Imbalance in Media Coverage of Missing Women 

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