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In family meeting, Trump asks for reviews of police killings

June 17, 2020 GMT
Attorney S. Lee Merritt testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on police use of force and community relations on on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in Washington. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Pool via AP)
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Attorney S. Lee Merritt testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on police use of force and community relations on on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in Washington. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Pool via AP)
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Attorney S. Lee Merritt testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on police use of force and community relations on on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in Washington. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Pool via AP)

DALLAS (AP) — Dwayne Palmer and his mother arrived at the White House wary, worried about being “used as political pawns” when President Donald Trump invited them and other families of other black people killed in interactions with law enforcement.

But during the meeting, Trump listened attentively as the families told stories of their loved ones’ deaths, and told Attorney General William Barr to see that the cases are looked into, according to Palmer and others who attended.

Trump and other officials met with six families at the White House Tuesday, ahead of his signing of an executive order that he said would encourage better police practices. Trump made no mention of the roiling national debate over racism during the Rose Garden signing ceremony, and the families did not attend.

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But the earlier meeting left Palmer with hope that federal investigators may finally reveal what happened to his brother, Everett Palmer Jr., whose 2018 death in a Pennsylvania county jail remains largely unexplained.

The president and other officials were gracious and listened respectfully as he recounted what’s know of his brother’s death, Palmer said. Afterward, he said, the president turned to Barr and told him to have the Justice Department review the case.

“We are very hopeful, skeptically hopeful, that the president’s pledge and direction to Attorney General Barr, pursuant to my brother’s case, is a promise that will actually be kept,” Palmer told The Associated Press Wednesday.

S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney who represents many of the families whose losses have spurred protests nationwide, said Trump gave Barr similar directions on other cases.

They include Jemel Roberson, a security guard fatally shot by a Chicago police officer; Cameron Lamb, shot dead by police in Kansas City; Michael Dean, shot in the head by a Texas officer during a traffic stop; Margarita Brooks, whom another Texas officer accidentally shot and killed while firing at a dog; and Darius Tarver, a Texas college student whom police fatally shot in January as he advanced toward them carrying a pan.

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Trump “was handing out federal reviews like candy,” said Merritt, whose practice is based in Dallas. But Merritt said Trump did not engage as much in the conversation about changing qualified immunity, a proposal by Democrats that would could make officers personally liable for the deaths of people in their custody.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said that during the meeting he watched “the president of the United States just soak in the pain and the misery and the suffering of family members because they lost their loved one unnecessarily.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that after the tearful meeting Trump said: “I love those families. I want to help those families.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to questions about the nature of the reviews.

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Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.