Justice Department to Investigate Eric Garner's Death

Dec 03, 2014

The U.S. Department of Justice will launch a civil-rights investigation into a New York man's police-involved death by apparent chokehold after a grand jury declined to indict the officer, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday evening.

Holder made televised remarks from a lectern in Washington, D.C., as protestors began to gather and march at several locations around New York City in response to the grand jury's decision in the case of Eric Garner. Federal prosecutors would conduct a “independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation” into Garner’s death, Holder said, after acknowledging he informed Garner's widow that the Justice Department would launch the inquiry. "His death was a great tragedy," he added. “All lives must be valued, all lives.”

MORE: Behind the Video of Eric Garner's Deadly Confrontation With New York Police

A city medical examiner had previously ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused by “compression of the neck (chokehold)” and chest compressions he incurred while being subdued by police on July 17. Officers on Staten Island accused Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes and had attempted to arrest him, which he protested. Footage of the altercation, shot by a friend, shows a group of policemen forcing Garner to the ground as one of them, officer Daniel Panteleo, appears to put Garner in a chokehold, which is banned by the city's police department.

Holder appealed for calm Wednesday as protestors gathered in New York and Washington in response to the announcement. The news came about a week after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., decided not to indict white officer Darren Wilson in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The Justice Department is also investigating that case.

The Attorney General also began a series of conversations in communities across the country between police officers and minorities to improve relations between the two groups. Holder said such conversations would proceed “as we seek to form trust and foster understanding.”

Witness Protesters Taking Over the Streets After the Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision

Police Chokehold Death
A group of protesters rally against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner occupy the eastbound traffic lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City in the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 2014.Jason DeCrow—AP
Police Chokehold Death
People Protest No Indictment in Eric Garner Chokehold Case
Grand Jury Declines To Indict NYPD Officer In Eric Garner Death
Protests Erupt Across Country After Grand Jury Does Not Indict NYPD Officer Over Chokehold Death
Police stand guard on the West Side highway as protesters block traffic after the jury verdict in the death of Eric Garner in New York
Demonstrators Gather In Philadelphia To Protest Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision
BESTPIX - Demonstrators Gather In Philadelphia To Protest Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision
Protests Erupt Across Country After Grand Jury Does Not Indict NYPD Officer Over Chokehold Death
US-ERIC-GARNER-PROTEST
People take part in a protest against the grand jury decision on the death of Eric Garner in midtown Manhattan in New York
NYC reacts to Eric Garner Grand Jury decision
US-CRIME-POLICE-RACE-UNREST
Police Chokehold Death
A man holding a child walks past protesters demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner in Manhattan
People Protest over no indictment in Eric Garner's chokehold case in Atlanta, Georgia
A demonstrator stands next to makeshift memorial where Eric Garner died during arrest in July in Staten Island borough of New York
A group of protesters rally against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Er
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Jason DeCrow—AP
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