The chokehold death of Eric Garner is back in the news as the Department of Justice in D.C. is taking over the case from investigators in New York. Garner was choked to death by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo while selling loose cigarettes on a street corner in July 2014. His death sparked the #ICantBreathe hashtag and ushered in the Black Lives Matter movement. Pantaleo was not charged by New York prosecutors for Garner’s death, which caused an outcry and massive protests across the country. Now the case being prepared by federal prosecutors in New York has been moved to Washington, D.C. prosecutors. The move comes after federal investigators in Brooklyn seemed reluctant to bring the case forward. The team of agents and lawyers investigating Garner’s death have been replaced by personnel outside of New York.
Pantaleo was cleared by a Staten Island grand jury in Garner’s death, however, federal charges as to whether Garner’s civil rights were violated still remained. An unnamed source on the New York investigation team told media that the feds were trying to “make an example out of Pantaleo.” One federal source is quoted by the New York Post as stating it “makes no sense” for the Justice Department to spend additional tax dollars re-examining a case that has already been thoroughly investigated over several years. The source stated, “It’s disgraceful that they are trying to appease this angry mob of demonstrators.”
Investigators in D.C. disagree and plan to move forward soon to bring a formal indictment against Pantaleo. Garner’s estate filed a claim against the city in October 2014 for damages related to his death and reached a settlement of $5.9 million. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer stated at the time, “Following a judicious review of the claim and facts of this case, my office was able to reach a settlement with the estate of Eric Garner that is in the best interests of all parties.”