The widow of Eric Garner, the man who died last week after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer, is urging federal prosecutors to launch a civil rights investigation. Her plea was heard during a recent meeting in Brooklyn.
On Friday, Esaw Garner sat with two prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office to discuss the fatal incident. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement following the meeting, calling the death a “tragic event.”
“We are closely monitoring the city’s investigation into the incident,” Holder said. He did not comment on whether the Justice Department would launch its own investigation.
Esaw was joined by Eric’s eldest daughter, his mother and Rev. Al Sharpton at the meeting on Friday. The civil rights activist told reporters that the city’s promise was simply not enough.
“We cannot just depend — and this is important — on police policy to stop the choke hold,” Sharpton said outside the U.S. attorney’s office. “We need a federal precedent.”
Garner died July 17 in State Island following a run-in with the police over his alleged sale of untaxed cigarettes. In a video that has gone viral, he can be seen arguing with cops and asking them to leave him alone before officer Daniel Pantaleo puts him in a chokehold, a move prohibited by NYPD departmental policy.
As he was wrestled to the ground, Garner can be heard yelling that he couldn’t breathe and eventually loses consciousness. He was pronounced dead approximately one hour later at Richmond University Medical Center.
On Wednesday, mourners gathered at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn to say their final goodbyes to Garner, who is survived by his wife, six children and two grandchildren. Among those in attendance was Kadiatou Diallo, the widow of Amadou Diallo, who was shot to death in 1999 by police, who mistook his wallet for a gun.
“It brings back terrible memories,” Diallo told the Daily News on Wednesday. “After all these cases and all these years, nothing seems to change.”
An autopsy performed on Garner failed to determine a cause of death. Additional analysis is expected to take at least two more weeks.
Following Garner’s death, Pantaleo was put on “modified assignment” and stripped of his gun and badge. Four emergency workers have also been suspended without pay.
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