CHICAGO (WMBD) — National Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump was one of many gathered in Chicago Friday to demand Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) intervention in the death investigation of Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day.

At a press conference Friday morning, Crump said he wanted the FBI to investigate the matter as a “hate crime investigation.”

“None of it adds up,” Crump said, listing details of the investigation. “It doesn’t pass the common sense test. And then you look at the demographics of the town of which this happened, and the historical acknowledgment that it was a sundown town… If that was your child, would you accept what the local police are trying to tell this mother?”

Crump compared the level of attention the Jelani Day case received to that of YouTuber Gaby Petito, who was found dead in September after her missing person case garnered worldwide interest.

“[Authorities] were committed to getting the answers for [the Petito] family. Well, why are they dogmatic about getting the answers for this Black family? Why is it when somebody’s Black, and they go missing, it’s not taken seriously?”

Ben Crump, National Civil Rights Attorney

Crump continued by saying the family does not believe officials have done their due diligence into the manner of Jelani’s death.

“[Authorities] try to write it off as ‘they must have taken their own life.’ We don’t accept it. We are very clear in our declaration that this is not suicide,” Crump said.

Carmen Day, Jelani’s mother, showed her passion for finding any answers regarding her son’s death.

“I know I’m not the first mother who has lost a child. But when you lose your child, and you don’t know why, you don’t know what happened, you don’t know what for, what reason, I don’t know how you cannot stop insisting that the people who have made pledges to protect and serve find the answers for you,” Carmen Day said.

Jelani was reported missing in late August. His body was found about two weeks later in the Illinois River.

LaSalle County Coroner Richard Ploch said the cause of Jelani’s death was drowning, but the manner of death has yet to be determined.

LaSalle County Sheriff Adam Diss released a statement the same day Crump and Carmen Day spoke, reaffirming the search for answers continues.

“We continue to examine the circumstances surrounding Jelani Day’s death from every investigative angle and are working hand-in-hand with our federal and local law enforcement partners to ensure that every lead is followed.  Out of respect for Mr. Day and his family and a desire to protect the integrity of the investigation, we will not be making additional statements at this time.  We do, however, anticipate releasing additional information as available in the coming days.”

Adam Diss, Lasalle County Sheriff

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