Clinton calls for probes of police-involved deaths

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Central Baptist Church in Columbia on Tuesday with mothers of victims of gun violence including Sybrina Fulton (left), mother of Trayvon Martin, and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly.

COLUMBIA — Hillary Clinton said police-involved deaths in the United States need to be independently investigated and announced a plan to provide federal resources to support state and local efforts to do so.

The comments from the presidential hopeful came during a forum to address gun violence and police-involved deaths. The event featured the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Dontre Hamilton and Jordan Davis.

Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, said she believes gun culture in America led to her son’s death. Davis was shot and killed by Michael Dunn in November 2012 after an argument about loud music coming from Davis’ car.

“I believe what gave him (Dunn) carte blanche — shoot first, ask questions later — is gun culture and the radical gun laws in our country,” McBath said.

Clinton spoke briefly before the mothers recounted their stories of the loved ones they lost to gun violence.

“That’s too many deaths, too many lives cut short, too many questions unanswered,” Clinton said after introducing the mothers to the crowd at Central Baptist Church in Columbia. “Something is wrong when kids can get arrested for petty crimes and lose their lives.”

Geneva Reed-Veal said she fought depression after her daughter, Bland, was found dead in her jail cell while being held by police in Texas.

“I am angry, but I’m not angry enough to riot,” Reed-Veal said. “I’m angry enough to vote for this lady.”

Cynthia Boykin of Columbia, who said she plans to vote for Clinton in Saturday’s Democratic primary, brought her grandchildren — ages 9 and 11 — to see the former secretary of state.

“It was important for them to be here and see Hillary,” Boykin said. “And to see her generosity for the mothers she brought here today.”

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head during a constituent meeting in 2011, endorsed Clinton as the person who can best tackle gun reform.

“In the White House she will stand up to the gun lobby,” Giffords said of Clinton at the forum. “That’s why I’m voting for Hillary. Speaking is difficult for me. But come January, I want to say these two words: Madam President.”

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.