NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - The Justice Department has replaced a team of New York-based federal agents and lawyers investigating the death of chokehold victim Eric Garner with a team from Washington, according to a report in the New York Times. The New York Post later reported that the D.C.-based feds plan to aggressively pursue criminal charges against the officer responsible for the chokehold.
The new team will determine if Garner's civil rights were violated. A source told the Post that "Washington wants to indict" Officer Daniel Pantaleo. The Justice Department declined to comment to Fox 5.
On July 17, 2014, Garner, 43, was by NYPD officers outside a convenience store on Staten Island because they believed he was selling loose cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker shows Garner, who was black, telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.
Pantaleo, who is white, placed his arm around Garner's neck to take him down. Garner is heard gasping "I can't breathe!" 11 times before losing consciousness.
His death, coupled with police killings of unarmed black men elsewhere, spurred protests around the country about police treatment of black men.
"I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for protesters.
"I'm hoping they follow through with it and do what they need to do to put this officer away," Esaw Garner told the New York Daily News. "He needs to suffer the consequences of his actions."
The city medical examiner found the chokehold contributed to Garner's death, but a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo. A federal inquiry is ongoing.
Chokeholds are banned by New York Police Department policy. Pantaleo has said that he used a legal takedown maneuver known as a seatbelt, not a chokehold.
Garner's family reached a $5.9 million settlement with New York City over the death.
PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement: "The decision to remove the local officials investigating this case is both highly unusual and deeply troubling. Two separate investigative teams have already spent more than two years reviewing the evidence in this case, without any action. Now, it appears that they are taking a third bite at the apple in an effort to reach a predetermined outcome. It is time to end this fishing expedition and let Police Officer Pantaleo move forward."
With the Associated Press