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Justice Department to Investigate Eric Garner’s Death

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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
People Protest No Indictment in Eric Garner Chokehold Case
Protestors block 15th Street near Pennsylvania Avenue to protest the Staten Island grand jury's decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner chokehold case in Washington on Dec. 3, 2014.Jim Lo Scalzo—EPA
Grand Jury Declines To Indict NYPD Officer In Eric Garner Death
Demonstrators march through the streets of New York City on Dec. 3, 2014. Andrew Burton—Getty Images
Protests Erupt Across Country After Grand Jury Does Not Indict NYPD Officer Over Chokehold Death
Regina Bates speaks during a demonstration in Oakland, Calif. on Dec. 3, 2014. Elijah Nouvelage—Getty Images
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
Police stand guard on the West Side highway as protesters block traffic in New York City on Dec. 3, 2014. Shannon Stapleton—Reuters
Demonstrators Gather In Philadelphia To Protest Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision
Anwar Thurston, 36, joined demonstrators who gathered to protest the Eric Garner grand jury decision during a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at City Hall in Philadelphia on Dec. 3, 2014.Mark Makela—Getty Images
BESTPIX - Demonstrators Gather In Philadelphia To Protest Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision
A demonstrator cries while gathering to protest the Eric Garner grand jury decision during a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at City Hall in Philadelphia on Dec. 3, 2014.Mark Makela—Getty Images
Protests Erupt Across Country After Grand Jury Does Not Indict NYPD Officer Over Chokehold Death
Demonstrators block traffic on Highway I-395 in Washington on Dec. 3, 2014. T.J. Kirkpatrick—Getty Images
US-ERIC-GARNER-PROTEST
Protestors lay down in Grand Central Station during a protest in New York City on Dec. 3, 2014.Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images
People take part in a protest against the grand jury decision on the death of Eric Garner in midtown Manhattan in New York
People take part in a protest against the grand jury decision on the death of Eric Garner in midtown Manhattan in New York City on Dec. 3, 2014. Eric Thayer—Reuters
NYC reacts to Eric Garner Grand Jury decision
Protesters raise their arms and chant at police officers in Times Square in New York City on Dec. 3, 2014. Caitlin Ochs—Polaris
US-CRIME-POLICE-RACE-UNREST
Demonstrators march in protest on the streets of St. Louis on Dec. 3, 2014. Michael B. Thomas—AFP/Getty Images
Police Chokehold Death
Police officers block protesters from marching up a highway entrance ramp near Times Square in New York City on Dec. 3, 2014. Seth Wenig—AP
A man holding a child walks past protesters demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner in Manhattan
A man holding a child walks with protesters as they march past Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Dec. 3, 2014. Adrees Latif—Reuters
People Protest over no indictment in Eric Garner's chokehold case in Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta Police face off with protesters blocking Spring Street in Atlanta on Dec. 3, 2014. Erik S. Lesser—EPA
A demonstrator stands next to makeshift memorial where Eric Garner died during arrest in July in Staten Island borough of New York
A demonstrator stands next to a makeshift memorial where Eric Garner died during an arrest in July in the Staten Island borough of New York City on Dec. 3, 2014. Shannon Stapleton—Reuters

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