FBI: ‘No greater tragedy’ than the killing of Emmett Till

A federal investigation was closed into the February 2013 shooting death of Emmett Till in Mississippi by two white men after they were charged by a grand jury last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Friday.

The two men, Ronnie Lee Gardner, 65, and Roy Bryant, 72, face federal hate crime charges for allegedly killing Till, a black teen who was brutally beaten and shot in 1955. At the time, Till’s white mother had taken his casket to court to protest his beating in a store.

“There is no greater tragedy than the needless loss of life to violence and hate,” Sessions said in a statement. “I am grateful to those involved in the Justice Department’s effort to bring justice to Emmett Till’s family and the residents of Mississippi. This injustice must never be repeated.”

Gardner and Bryant, who are each being held in Mississippi on state charges, have always denied murdering Till.

Till’s death was one of the most documented racially charged killings of the civil rights era and led to the racial integration of the courtroom in the case against the men.

The teenager’s death still helps to illustrate the brutalness of the racial attitudes of Mississippi at the time. That year, whites led a lynching of a black man in Sullivan County, the same county where Bryant and Gardner killed Till, prompting his parents to advocate for equal access to the court. At the time, Till’s parents did not attend trials in the state.

Till’s killing was a national news story, especially after a tireless young journalist named Roy Innis followed and covered the case, and Till’s mother continued to press for the killers to be held accountable. The body of Till was discovered 60 days after his death in the Tallahatchie River. He had been beaten and shot and his head bashed in by a rifle shot.

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