FBI director says agency doing all it can to get 'justice' for Laken Riley

His comments marked the first time Wray had spoken publicly about Riley's death.

March 19, 2024, 3:57 PM

The FBI is doing everything it can to get "justice" for Laken Riley, the college student who was murdered by a migrant in the country illegally, FBI Director Christopher Wray said at the University of Georgia on Tuesday.

Laken Riley, a student at Georgia's Augusta University, was killed by a migrant who was illegally in the country from Venezuela last month, according to authorities. The 22-year-old was killed while jogging in a park on the University of Georgia campus on Feb. 22.

"I want to tell you how heartbroken I am -- not just for the family, friends, classmates, and staff who are grieving Laken's loss," Wray said. "But for Augusta University and the entire UGA community, which many members of my own family are a part of. A lot of people -- students, alumni, and community members alike -- see Athens as a kind of safe haven from what ails so much of the rest of the country."

Wray went on to say that he is "saddened to see that sense of peace shattered by Laken's murder and the subsequent arrest of a Venezuelan national who'd illegally entered the country in 2022."

"We're doing everything we can to help achieve justice for Laken," Wray said.

His comments marked the first time Wray had spoken publicly about Riley, whose death has become a rallying cry for immigration reform for many conservatives.

Laken Riley is seen in an undated photo.
Augusta University

During President Joe Biden's State of the Union address last month, he engaged in an ad-libbed exchange with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., after she called out from the chamber about Riley's death. Many Republicans have claimed Biden and administration officials have avoided saying her name so as not to highlight the crime and the suspect.

Biden called her "an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal."

During his remarks, Wray also mentioned the six officers in Mississippi who were found guilty of "heinous" crimes targeting two Black men -- including handcuffing, beating, kicking victims, staging a fake execution and discharging a weapon breaking one defendant's jaw. The officers also "bombarded them" with racial slurs, Wray said.

The officers were sentenced Tuesday to a total of 16 charges related to the January 2023 torture of the men.

"Without a warrant or any exigent circumstances, the six of them kicked in the door of a home where two Black men were staying and subjected them to an hour and a half of pure hell," Wray said. "Can you imagine the abject terror those two victims must have felt? I mean, who do you call when the police are the ones terrorizing you?"

Wray said that instead of rendering aid, the officers came up with a "cover story." He said the case is an example of "holding the powerful" accountable.

"It's hard to imagine a more atrocious set of civil rights violations than those carried out by these guys," he said.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray arrives at a hearing with the House (Select) Intelligence Committee in the Cannon Office Building on March 12, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images, FILE

Wray said holding law enforcement and elected accountable is a core tenant of the bureau's work.

"When someone decides the office they hold places them above the law, it's often the bureau's job to make sure they're held accountable," he said. "Now again, many public servants working at all levels of government are honest and dedicated people who strive to do the right thing for their constituents and their country. Unfortunately, there are also public officials who are only concerned with serving a very specific constituency: themselves."

Wray said that public corruption strikes at the "very heart of government."

"It eats away at public confidence and undermines the strength of our democracy -- and public corruption is not limited to crooked politicians who get caught with their hands in the till," Wray said.

"It can affect everything from how well our borders are secured and our neighborhoods are protected, to how verdicts are handed down in courtrooms and how roads and schools are built and it can take a significant toll on the public's wallet by siphoning off tax dollars. In fact, estimates put the cost of public corruption to the U.S. government and the American public at billions of dollars every year," Wray added.

When talking about the FBI's broad authority and power, he said it is important they hold themselves to the highest standard.

"Uncle Ben from Marvel Comics' Spider-Man is credited with saying that 'With great power comes great responsibility.' So while that authority and power are necessary for the FBI to do our job, they also come with an enormous amount of responsibility -- and in turn, close scrutiny. And that's how it should be."