A Massachusetts mayor called for an independent investigation into his city's police department Thursday afternoon as an investigation into the murder of a teenager whose headless body was found near a river weeks after being reported missing continues.
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera addressed what he wanted to see for the next steps in the Lee Manuel Viloria-Paulino murder case that has shocked his community and has prompted questions about whether it was handled appropriately by the police department and calls for the police chief's resignation.
Viloria-Paulino, 16, was last seen alive on Nov. 18. A 15-year-old has been charged with first degree murder after Viloria-Paulino's decapitated body was discovered by a woman walking her dog near the Merrimack River on Dec. 1.
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Thursday, Rivera said that while he stands byby Lawrence Police Chief James Fitzpatrick and his department, he understands the concerns expressed by Viloria-Paulino's family and the community and that the independent investigation "will help us better understand the steps that were taken throughout the course of this case."
The independent investigation will be headed by former Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Angel Tavares and Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Norma Ayala-Leong, along with a former assistant US attorney and a former FBI agent.
Wednesday evening, Rivera released a statement on his Facebook page vowing to not let "politically driven, power hungry city councilors, crazed rouge police officers, tax dead beats, and criminals" overshadow the work of those trying to improve the city.
Two city councilors announced Wednesday they were asking for Fitzpatrick's resignation after alleging his department didn't do enough in its search for Viloria-Paulino.
Viloria-Paulino's family is also upset with the department's alleged inaction, saying officers didn't investigate much until state police and the Essex district attorney's office became involved in the case 10 days after the teen was reported missing.
Fitzpatrick says his department initially believed Viloria-Paulino ran away.
"Our officers took the case seriously, used all resources to find the victim, and arrested his alleged murderer within 36 hours," he said in a statement.
His grandmother tells us the family has no interest in taking sides in this burgeoning political fight because nothing will bring him back.