A half dozen New York Democrats are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate another incident involving the death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and his colleagues say they don’t think New York police can fairly investigate the death of 43-year old Eric Garner back in July. Garner was put into a choke hold by NYPD Office Dan Pantaleo that forced him to gasp “I can’t breathe!”
Garner died, and soon after, Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and badge.
But on Thursday in New York, Jeffries said justice has not been served to Pantaleo, which demands a formal federal investigation.
“Eric Garner is dead,” he said. “The person who videotaped the incident was arrested. And the officer who killed Mr. Garner in broad daylight remains free and on the N.Y.P.D.’s payroll. There’s something wrong with that picture.”
Others added that NYPD regulations prohibit choke holds.
“Everything seems to indicate that Mr. Garner was a victim of an unlawful practice that was banned two decades ago, and there are some worrying indications that this tragedy may not get a full and fair investigation absent federal intervention,” said Rep. Jose Serranno (D-N.Y.). “We need a forceful and unbiased entity like the Department of Justice to step in and ensure justice is done.”
Their letter to Holder said police tried to arrest Garner on the suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes, and instead placed him in a choke hold that caused his death.
“The entire incident was video-taped, including Mr. Garner’s desperate pleas for help,” the letter states. “His request for assistance was ignored by Officer Pantaleo and other NYPD officials who were on the scene.”
“[T]here is no indication that the local district attorney is prepared to aggressively prosecute this case,” they added. “Absent DOJ intervention, we may be marching toward a miscarriage of justice.”
The lawmakers say the event stems from the NYPD’s “broken windows” police policy that targets minorities for minor violations, and said there is evidence that similar crimes are “ignored by the NYPD in the majority-white neighborhoods of New York City.”
“We strongly urge the Department of Justice to open a formal investigation into the policy custody death of Eric Garner and the alleged constitutional and civil rights violations connected with the broken windows law enforcement strategy,” the letter concludes.
Their request came just days after members of the Congressional Black Caucus asked Holder to investigate the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white police officer. Holder has said the Justice Department will run its own investigation of that event, parallel to the investigation being conducted in Missouri.
In that case, Holder has encouraged Ferguson police to have more minorities on staff, and has also warned them against using military gear to suppress protesters.
Read the letter from New York Democrats to Holder here: