By Steve Neavling
Eric Garner with his children, via National Action Network
Soon after a grand jury declined to indict a white New York City cop in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who was selling cigarettes, the Justice Department will conduct its own civil rights investigation.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a press conference today that Attorney General Eric Holder was preparing to closely examine the case to determine whether civil rights charges are warranted, the Huffington Post reports.
“They made clear that the investigation initiated by the U.S. attorney would now move forward, move expeditiously, and be a thorough investigation,” de Blasio said.
The announcement comes after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantelo, who placed Garner in a chokehold after arresting him on July 17 for selling single cigarettes.
In a video, Garner can be heard screaming, “I can’t breathe,” before his body went limp.
A medical examiner determined Garner’s death was a homicide caused by the chokehold.
Statement From Attorney Eric Holder:
Good evening. I want to provide an update regarding the case involving Eric Garner, a Staten Island resident, who died tragically in July.
Since Mr. Garner’s death, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Civil Rights Division and the FBI have been monitoring the local case closely while allowing the local investigation, led by the District Attorney’s office in Staten Island, to proceed first.
Earlier today, the grand jury declined to return an indictment in this case. Now that the local investigation has concluded, I am here to announce that the Justice Department will proceed with a federal civil rights investigation into Mr. Garner’s death.
This afternoon I spoke with the widow of Eric Garner to inform her and her family of our decision to investigate potential federal civil rights violations. I have been in touch with President Obama and Mayor de Blasio regarding our decision as well.
Our prosecutors will conduct an independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation.
In addition to performing our own investigative work, the Department will conduct a complete review of the material gathered during the local investigation.
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