Jelani Day Update: ISU student's family attorney Ben Crump calls for FBI hate crime investigation

BySamantha Chatman and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Friday, December 3, 2021
Jelani Day case
Jelani Day went missing from Illinois State University on August 24. His body was found in the Illinois River several weeks later. His family is campaigning for a fuller investigation into his death.The FBI said it's hoping to get more information from Jelani Day's close contacts to better understand the circumstances surrounding his death.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An attorney for the family of Jelani Day has called for the FBI to investigate the Illinois State University Student's death as a hate crime.

Attorney Ben Crump joined Day's family and Rev. Jesse Jackson for a press conference Friday in Chicago, demanding answers in the student's death investigation.

Day was a graduate student at ISU in Bloomington when he disappeared at the end of August. His body was identified weeks later, having been pulled from the Illinois River near Peru.

READ MORE | Jelani Day's mother shows why she believes foul play was involved in son's death

Crump said he came to Chicago with a singular mission, which is to make it clear to the public that Day did not die by suicide, and that it's time for the U.S. attorney general and FBI to take over the case exclusively. The case is especially personal for him.

"Jelani was our fraternity brother, a member of Omega Pi Phi," Crump said. "So beyond the fact that he was one of the most promising, one of the most gifted, one of the most intelligent Black men that we have to offer the world, he was also my frat brother. So that's why we declare to make him a priority. He will be the face of Black and missing in America.

Last month, Day's cell phone was found and was sent to the FBI for further testing.

From the beginning, Day's mother Carmen has questioned the investigation by local police and the LaSalle County sheriff.

"I wasn't getting any help, I didn't have the resources, I didn't have the ability to have people out there searching for my child," she said. "I didn't have all the drones, I didn't have all the police officers. I didn't have any of that. I still don't have that."

The LaSalle County coroner ruled Day's death a drowning, but Crump rejects that notion and wants the FBI to investigate the case as a hate crime.

"It doesn't add up at all. His car was found three-and-a-half miles from the river where he allegedly committed suicide in, but then his clothes were found in another place, his wallet was found in another place, his cell phone was found in another place by other people," Crump said. "The fact that they took the license tag off the back of his car, none of that adds up to suicide. It sounds like homicide."

The LaSalle County Sheriff's Office, as well as local police, say they are working around the clock to find out what happened to Jelani Day, but Crump and Rev. Jackson, along with the family, it's time for the FBI to take over this case entirely.