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Ayanna Pressley and a dozen other elected officials of color question whether Mikayla Miller’s death was a ‘hate crime’

The group is pressing for an independent investigation to "restore the trust that has been broken" by Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan's office and local police.

Mikayla Miller. Miller family

Rep. Ayanna Pressley and a dozen other local elected officials of color from Boston are demanding that local law enforcement leaders commission a “thorough, transparent, and independent investigation” into the death of Mikayla Miller, suggesting that the Hopkinton teenager may have been “driven to suicide due to bullying because of her race and sexual orientation.”

The state’s medical examiner ruled on May 18 that Miller, who is Black, committed suicide, after her body was found hanging from a tree in the woods near her home in the mostly white Boston suburb on April 18.

However, her family and other community members have criticized local police and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan for not investigating the death with enough speed and transparency.

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In a letter Wednesday to Ryan, Pressley and 12 other Boston elected officials of color joined the ranks of the critics.

Ryan has said that the death is not considered suspicious, but the group joined those who question the extent to which Miller’s suicide was connected to a physical altercation on April 17 involving Miller and five other teenagers that occurred after she got into a fight with her girlfriend. Miller’s body was found the next morning.

Pressley first called for an independent investigation on May 5. And while the death has since been ruled a suicide, the Massachusetts congresswoman and others say the reported bullying has “made closure hard to find for Mikayla’s family and the community.”

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“We question whether Mikayla’s death is a hate crime, especially if the independent investigation finds that she was driven to suicide due to bullying because of her race and sexual orientation,” they wrote.

The letter was also signed by Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz; state Reps. Nika Elugardo, Brandy Fluker Oakley, Russell Holmes, and Liz Miranda; and Boston city councilors Lydia Edwards, Annissa Essaibi-George, Michelle Wu, Julia Mejia, Ricardo Arroyo, and Andrea Campbell.

Ryan has said that Miller’s death does not appear to be a hate crime.

But in the letter Wednesday, the group of elected officials argued that an independent investigation would “not only” help answer questions about the reported bulling, but “also help to restore the trust that has been broken by the lack of transparency in the investigation currently carried out by your office and Hopkinton Police.”

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Gov. Charlie Baker has also said he would support an independent investigation into Miller’s death, noting that Attorney General Maura Healey’s office could order such a probe. Healey has said she’s waiting for Ryan’s office to finish its investigation and is “closely monitoring” the case. Meanwhile, the Miller family has called for the FBI to lead the independent investigation.

In the letter Wednesday, the group of elected officials suggested that Ryan’s office should initiate the independent investigation.

“Any loss of life, especially that of a young person, is a tragic event and must be thoroughly investigated,” they wrote. “By commissioning an independent investigation into Mikayla’s death, we can prevent the further erosion of trust and help Mikayla’s loved ones find the healing that every family deserves after a loss.”

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