INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Federal authorities said Wednesday they are reviewing a 15-year-old boy's claim that Indianapolis police beat him so badly that one of his eyes swelled shut, one day after black community leaders called for a civil rights investigation.
"The facts are being reviewed by the FBI, the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of Indiana and the Department of Justice to determine if an investigation is warranted," said Supervisory Special Agent Drew Northern, an FBI spokesman.
Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said Tuesday he had begun a criminal investigation into the May 16 incident, and police are conducting their own internal investigation.
But a state legislator and other black leaders said Tuesday that wasn't enough, and an outside investigation would help ease racial tension. They said they would ask the Justice Department's civil rights division to investigate the incident.
"It will help calm a volatile situation like this as we move into the summer," said state Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis.
The teen, who is black, alleges that white officers kneed him, kicked him and punched him when he tried to comfort his younger brother, who he said was being wrongly arrested on a burglary charge. The teen's face was bruised so badly that his left eye swelled shut.
Police said they were called by neighbors who reported seeing the younger boy trying to break into a vacant house. Police said the 15-year-old interfered in the arrest and tried to incite a crowd against the officers.
"The kid getting beat is a bad thing. I have a son and I don't want to see that happen to him," said Greg Sparks, who lives in the eastside neighborhood where the incident occurred. "But if you are in the wrong ... and a cop asks you to stand back, you are supposed to stand back."
The 15-year-old was arrested on a preliminary charge of disorderly conduct, but prosecutors have not yet filed formal charges. A hearing was set for Thursday in juvenile court.
"Everything's still being reviewed at this point," said Brizzi spokeswoman Susan Decker.
The four arresting officers have been placed on administrative duty pending an internal investigation. Police Chief Paul Ciesielski promised the probe would be fair and complete.
"If the officers were wrong, we will deal with that. If they were right and no policies were violated, then we will put them back to work," he said.
Brizzi said he would try to determine whether the officers used excessive force or broke the law. Brizzi said he has met with internal affairs investigators and reviewed witness statements they had collected.
Elder Lionel Rush, a member of the Concerned Clergy, said the black community would be more likely to accept the results of an independent investigation.
"Whatever the Justice Department says, the community will live with it," he said.
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