Family of Jelani Day hires attorney Ben Crump; calls on FBI to investigate case as hate crime

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:44 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 NEWS) - The family of Jelani Day has hired civil rights attorney Ben Crump as their lawyer as they continue to seek answers about his disappearance and death.

Both Crump and Day’s family are calling on the FBI to step in and lead the investigation into the Illinois State University graduate student’s death.

Crump is famously known for representing the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

Now, Crump is alongside Jelani’s family and the Rainbow Push Coalition in their effort to find out what happened to Jelani, saying the current details surrounding the case are not adding up.

It has been about 100 days since Jelani’s body was found in the Illinois River.

Jelani’s mother Carmen Bolden Day said she’s had to stay on local investigators during the search for her son.

Day said she’s disappointed with what she calls a lack of effort from the task force investigating Jelani’s death.

“I need the FBI to come in and to take over because these local jurisdictions have shown us that they have not made this a priority,” Day said.

“Jelani is missed,” Day added. “I wake up everyday having to deal with the fact that I can’t talk to my son.”

The LaSalle County Coroner said the cause of death is drowning.

Crump said that information and the details of Jelani’s disappearance doesn’t make sense.

He points to the fact that Jelani’s car was three and a half miles from where his body was found and his school lanyard and wallet were found in other places.

“Why is it when somebody’s black and they go missing, it’s not taken seriously?” Crump said.

“And they try to write it off as they must have took they own life. We don’t accept it,” he added.

Crump said because of Peru’s demographic being predominately white and with the town’s racial history of being a sundown town, he wants the FBI to investigate Jelani’s death as a hate crime.

“100 days, no answers, the family is losing confidence in the local authorities and they want answers,” Crump said.

Day said the LaSalle County Coroner’s ruling Jelani’s death a drowning is an excuse for them to not conduct a more thorough investigation.

“It was me and my children who took on the tasks of going to stores, of going to gas stations and watching surveillance tapes. Why did I have to do that?” Day said.

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