Family of man who died in chokehold arrest seeks federal probe

Eric Garner, right, is pictured in a video clip posted on the New York Daily News website. The...

Eric Garner, right, is pictured in a video clip posted on the New York Daily News website. The image shows Garner just before he was tackled to the ground by New York police officers when they attempted to take him into custody. (nydailynews.com screengrab)

Jonathan Allen, Reuters

, Last Updated: 3:15 PM ET

NEW YORK – The widow and other relatives of Eric Garner, who died last week soon after a New York police officer put him in a choke hold, met with federal prosecutors on Friday to ask for a civil-rights investigation.

Thousands of people have watched two bystanders' videos that record Garner's dying cries that he could not breathe as police wrestled him to the ground while arresting him outside a Staten Island beauty parlor last Thursday for peddling untaxed cigarettes.

Nearly seven months after Mayor Bill de Blasio took office promising to reform the police, many New Yorkers have been alarmed to discover that some officers still use choke holds, although they have been banned from doing so for more than 20 years.

The city has promised to investigate a backlog of choke hold complaints and the police have promised to overhaul their training program in response, but Reverend Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist who joined Garner's family at the meeting with prosecutors, said this was not enough.

"We cannot just depend - and this is important - on police policy to stop the choke hold," Sharpton told reporters outside the U.S. Attorney's Office when he emerged with Eric Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, after about 30 minutes. "We need a federal precedent."

Standing nearby was Erica, the eldest of the Garners' six children, and Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother, along with their lawyers. The family declined to speak.

Garner's death is already being investigated by at least four authorities: the Staten Island district attorney, the police department's internal affairs bureau, the city's inspector general of police and the city's Civilian Complaint Review Board.

Bob Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said his colleagues were closely watching the other investigations.

Police said this week they were also investigating a second apparent use of a choke hold by an officer within the span of a week.

A crop of bystanders' videos, recorded just three days before Garner's death and circulated widely this week, showed an officer punching a suspected fare-dodger at a subway station and gripping him around his neck.

Ronald Johns, the suspected fare-dodger, is black, as was Garner, and the two incidents have tested de Blasio's pledge to mend frayed relations between the police and black and Latino residents. Police said Johns refused to show his identification and resisted arrest.

 


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