News of the investigation was announced Wednesday by attorney general Eric Holder, who emphasized the importance of the probe.
“Prosecutors will conduct an independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation,” Holder said. “The department will conduct a complete review of the material gathered during the local investigation.”
“We’ve all seen the video of Mr. Garner’s death. His death, of course, was a tragedy. All lives must be valued. All lives,” Holder added while urging protestors and demonstrators to voice their feelings about the situation peacefully.
“This is not a New York issue or a Ferguson issue alone,” he said. “Those who have protested peacefully across our great nation following the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson have made that clear.”
The investigation comes after a Staten Island grand jury’s decision on Wednesday to not indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death. The decision caps off a situation that stemmed from Garner’s arrest on July 17 for selling untaxed cigarettes. He was later placed in a chokehold by Pantaleo and ultimately died. Video footage of the incident, which showed Garner screaming that he “can’t breathe” multiple times before going limp, went viral and ignited a slew of reaction against what happened.
The Post noted that a medical examiner later determined the chokehold to be the cause of death and ruled Garner’s death a homicide.
Prior to Holder announcing the investigation, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio weighed in on Garner’s death at press conference on Wednesday, calling it “a terrible tragedy that no family should have to endure.”
De Blasio added that he had spoken to Holder and Loretta Lynch, the nominee to replace him as attorney general.
“They made clear that the investigation initiated by the U.S. attorney would now move forward, move expeditiously, and be a thorough investigation,” De Blasio stated.
News of the grand jury’s decision was immediately followed by demands of a federal investigation from New York lawmakers.
“The death of Eric Garner is a tragedy that demands accountability,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) told the Post. “Nobody unarmed should die on a New York City street corner for suspected low-level offenses. I’m shocked by this grand jury decision, and will be calling on the Department of Justice to investigate.”
Lynch’s ability to investigate Garner’s death was met with confidence by NY Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, while Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) expressed his personal struggle to deal with how things unfolded.
“I’m struggling, because I’m also a father of two young African-American boys,” he said. “And I don’t know what to say about what is happening in this country right now. We’re better than this as a country.”
To see Holder’s announcement, check out the video below: