UPDATED, Oct. 26, 2016, 10 a.m. EST
Erica Garner, the oldest and most politically active of Eric Garner’s children, has weighed in on the recent Department of Justice removal of New York-based FBI agents and lawyers from her father’s stagnant civil rights case against the NYPD officers who took his life in 2014.
In a statement released on Twitter Tuesday evening, Erica Garner says she thinks the recent move by Loretta Lynch’s Department of Justice is “a step in the right direction,” and that the DOJ had been “dragging its feet but is now finally serious about pursuing justice.”
Erica Garner further said she believes that the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, was trying to “cover up [her] father’s murder,” and that in the past, the DOJ was too quick not to indict officers involved in cases in which Black people were killed by police. She concludes:
“There have been countless cases where the Justice Department has too quickly come to a decision to not file federal civil rights charges, like for instance the cases involving Mike Brown in Ferguson and Freddie Gray in Baltimore. I hope they take their time and get it right in this case.”
Eric Garner became an icon in the Black Lives Matter movement after a July 2014 video of him emerged being harassed by a bevy of New York Police officers for selling illegal cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner. Officer Daniel Pantaleo could be seen viciously holding Garner down with a department banned-chokehold as Garner repeatedly says, “I can’t breathe.” Garner died that day, setting tens of thousands of protesters into the streets to demand justice for yet another Black man who died at the hands of the state.
A Staten Island Grand Jury did not bring charges against Officer Pantaleo, but the Department of Justice has been investigating whether Garner’s civil rights were violated.
As reported yesterday by NewsOne, the New York-based team of FBI agents and federal prosecutors did not think there was enough evidence to bring a case forward against Officer Pantaleo, but D.C.-based civil rights lawyers apparently do.
Those New York-based investigators and lawyers were recently replaced.
My offical statement on todays news on the replacement of federal investigators in the investgation of my father eric garner pic.twitter.com/fZ4pO4I22H
— officialERICA GARNER (@es_snipes) October 25, 2016
The Justice Department under U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has replaced the New York team of agents and lawyers investigating the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after being held in a chokehold and repeatedly saying, “I Can’t Breathe,” and replaced them, according to The New York Times.
The Times reports that the shake up is “highly unusual” and may put the long-stalled criminal case against the police officer who held him down back on track.
Garner, 43, died in 2014 in Staten Island after two police officers confronted him and accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes. One of the officers, Daniel Pantaleo, was seen on a video using a prohibited chokehold, and the autopsy named his death a homicide.
The case apparently slowed because federal prosecutors from New York and the FBI opposed bringing charges, while prosecutors with the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., argued there was clear evidence to do so.
The Times reports that Attorney General Lynch, who was the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and oversaw the beginning of the federal inquiry before her appointment to Washington, has been considering for months how to proceed. It writes:
In recent weeks, the F.B.I. agents who have been investigating the case were replaced with agents from outside New York, according to five federal officials in New York and Washington. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are no longer assigned to the case. It is not clear whether civil rights prosecutors from Washington will work alone in presenting evidence to a grand jury in Brooklyn and in trying the case if charges are eventually brought.
The Justice Department and the FBI did not comment.
A New York state grand jury declined to bring charges against Pantaleo, but he was stripped of his badge and gun and has remained on desk duty, apparently receiving tens of thousands in overtime.
The Times notes that the changes signal “a difficult road ahead” because Pantaleo’s lawyers can argue that a team of agents and prosecutors believes the case should not be brought.
The Times also reports that former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told colleagues that the Justice Department should bring charges, even if the government loses the case, because it’s the right thing to do.
SOURCE: New York Times | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty