AP source: Justice to probe NYC chokehold death - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

AP source: Justice to probe NYC chokehold death

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo) (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department will conduct a federal investigation into the chokehold death of an unarmed black man after a grand jury in New York City declined to indict the white police officer who applied the move, a department official said Wednesday.

The official said federal authorities will investigate the July 17 death of Eric Garner, 43, who was confronted by the officer on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker showed Garner telling officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him and one then responded by wrapping his arm around Garner's neck.

The death occurred weeks before the deadly police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, which is also under investigation by the Justice Department. The cases together have contributed to a national discussion about police excessive force and the treatment of minorities by law enforcement.

The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement Wednesday night.

Separately, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he had spoken with Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, who has been nominated as Holder's successor, and was told that the federal investigation into the death will now move forward.

Earlier Wednesday, a New York grand jury chose not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo. The grand jury could have considered multiple charges, from murder to a lesser offense such as reckless endangerment, but Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said jurors found "no reasonable cause" to bring charges.

The federal investigation into the case will look for potential federal civil rights violations in Garner's death, which led to demonstrations in New York.

It will be similar to a separate federal investigation already underway into the Aug. 9 shooting death in Ferguson of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. A county grand jury in that case decided against indicting the white officer, Darren Wilson.

To mount a prosecution in police misconduct cases, federal officials have to meet an extremely difficult legal standard — that the officer willfully violated a victim's civil rights and used more force than the law allowed. That standard is the same in the Ferguson case as in the New York case, but there are important differences, said William Yeomans, a former Justice Department civil rights official.

"One big difference, and one thing I think this makes an easier investigation is the existence of videotape," Yeomans said. "We didn't have that in Ferguson, and we would know much more about what happened in Ferguson if we had."

He said that while he did not know all the facts in the case, an argument of self-defense seemed harder to reasonably make in Garner's death.

"(Garner) was helpless, and of course, in the videotape, you can hear him saying repeatedly, that he couldn't breathe," he said. "He was clearly not in any kind of threatening posture."

____

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 Midwest Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.