WASHINGTON -- Jesse Jackson met with Attorney General Dick Thornburgh Monday and asked him to be 'aggressive' in considering possible federal civil rights charges in the Milwaukee serial killer case.
Jackson and a small delegation of civil rights, community and religious activists met with the attorney general for an hour to discuss the case, in which Jeffrey Dahmer is suspected of at least 17 killings.
Jackson told reporters that he asked Thornburgh 'to assume some burden of responsibility for justice, to keep his eyes directly on the situation and to monitor what is happening in Milwaukee and see what role it might play in protecting civil rights of people who have lost their lives.'
The civil rights advocate said he was 'partially' satisfied with Thornburgh's response.
'Well, he admitted that this is an abnormal situation,' Jackson said.
Jackson said he asked Thornburgh to 'consider' bringing federal civil rights charges in the highly publicized case. But Thornburgh said he would monitor the outcome of state or local charges, which is the Justice Department's routine process in such cases.
'There is a real concern of equal protection under the law,' Jackson said. 'We asked for a total review of police behavior.'
He said he hoped the Justice Department would consider possible 'criminal neglect' charges because police had investigated a complaint from a neighbor in May that Dahmer was chasing an Asian teenager, naked and bleeding, at 2 a.m.
The officers returned the 14-year-old boy to Dahmer, believing the situation to involve a dispute between homosexual lovers. Dahmer has since said he killed the child as soon as the officers left.
Three officers have since been suspended and charged with administrative wrongdoing because of that incident.
Meanwhile, at the FBI, spokesman Mike Kortan said the bureau had provided the Milwaukee police department with forensic laboratory assistance.
'These brutal crimes are a shock to all of us,' Thornburgh said in a statement. 'Although at this point there appears to be no federal criminal jurisdiction,' he said the FBI 'already is providing maximum assistance to the Milwaukee police.'
Jackson said the killings 'took place across state lines, so it seems to be under federal jurisdiction.' He also said the 'apparent indifference' by the Milwaukee police department 'is suggestive.'
The Justice Department should 'look carefully at the behavior of the police,' Jackson said, and 'the makeup of the police department, vertically and horizontally.'
After his meeting with Thornburgh, Jackson said: 'We came away convinced that he is aware of what is happening in Milwaukee.'
'There is circumstantial evidence here that the killings took place across state lines, for example, which is federal,' Jackson said, 'that there no doubt was some racial motivation in some of the killings.'
Most of the victims were black and Dahmer reportedly had a hatred for blacks and homosexuals. He met a number of his victims at gay bars.
Jackson said he asked the attorney general 'to be aggressive in the monitoring process, and not at all passive.'
Thornburgh was accompanied at the meeting by his assistant attorney general for civil rights, John Dunne.
Jackson also said there would be a 'mass rally' in Milwaukee Wednesday night to raise money 'to bury the innocent.'
Most of the families of the victims did not have life insurance, Jackson said, and need financial help with funeral expenses.