Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday night the Department of Justice would proceed with a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner after a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict the NYPD officer who put Garner in a fatal chokehold.
After the grand jury’s decision was announced Wednesday, Holder released a statement saying now that the local investigation is complete, the DOJ will investigate potential federal civil rights violations surrounding Garner’s death and will review all material gathered during the local investigation.
Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed black man, died July 17 after a white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, put Garner in what appeared to be a chokehold, an action NYPD strictly prohibits. The incident was caught on cellphone camera. During the video Garner, who suffered from asthma, could be heard shouting, “I can’t breathe” at least eight times. The medical examiner had ruled Garner’s death as a homicide. Charges that could have been filed against Pantaleo ranged from murder to reckless endangerment.
In his statement, Eric Holder says the death of Eric Garner was tragic and Garner’s case is one of many across the country that has tested the trust between law enforcement and communities they are to protect and serve.
“We have all seen the video of Mr. Garner’s arrest. His death, of course, was a tragedy. All lives must be valued. Mr. Garner’s death is one of several recent incidents across the country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and protect. This is not a New York issue or a Ferguson issue alone. Those who have protested peacefully across our great nation following the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson have made that clear.”
Holder went on to state that as the brother of a retired police officer, he knows most law enforcement officers conduct their duties honorably.
“I know in a personal way about the bravery of the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk every day to protect public safety. The vast majority of our law enforcement officers perform their duties honorably and are committed to respecting their fellow citizens civil rights as they carry out their very challenging work.”
Hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets of New York to protest the grand jury’s decision that there was no probable cause to file criminal charges against Pantaleo.
Holder’s decision to launch a federal investigation into Eric Garner’s death does not come as a surprise since he chose to continue with a federal investigation in the Michael Brown shooting after the grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson.