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Protests Mark 3 Years Since Eric Garner's Death as DOJ Probe Continues

By  Nicholas Rizzi and Katie Honan | July 17, 2017 5:38pm 

 Eric Garner, 43, died after being put in an apparent chokehold by police while being arrested for the sale of untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island.
Eric Garner, 43, died after being put in an apparent chokehold by police while being arrested for the sale of untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island.
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Facebook/R.I.P Eric Garner

TOMPKINSVILLE — As memorial services and protests mark the three-year anniversary of Eric Garner's chokehold death by an NYPD officer, federal prosecutors continue to weigh charges in the incident. 

Last month, Department of Justice investigators met with the Garner family and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill as part of their investigation to see if Officer Daniel Pantaleo should be charged with violating Garner's civil rights for fatally choking him.

"At the Department of Justice, actually I had a meeting with the Garner family a couple of weeks ago and they explained that the process is still ongoing, they're still conducting their investigations," O'Neill said at an unrelated press conference Monday.

Garner died on July 17, 2014 during an arrest for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes in front of Tompkinsville Park.

Dramatic video captured by Ramsey Orta shows the father of six being taken to down via a chokehold by Pantaleo and repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe" numerous times.

The city later reached a $5.9 million settlement with the Garner family in a wrongful death suit

His death sparked protests nationwide over police brutality, and his final words were used as a rallying cry.

(DNAinfo/Tom Liddy)

The city's Medical Examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide, but a grand jury later declined to indict Pantaleo.

After the decision, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch launched a federal civil rights investigation into the Garner's death. However, the probe stalled after disagreements between prosecutors on how to move forward with the case.

The U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn thought it couldn't prove Pantaleo committed a crime but the Washington D.C.-based civil rights division of the DOJ felt it had enough evidence, the New York Times reported.

The D.C.-based unit eventually replaced the Brooklyn FBI team.

In March, the New York Post reported that the feds revived their probe into Garner's death and questioned the former commander of the 120th Precinct — which had one of the highest rates of police misconduct in the city at the time and where Pantaleo worked — in front of a grand jury.

Despite progress, Garner's family and Rev. Al Sharpton complained about the slow pace of the probe.

"What’s taking so long?" Sharpton told the Post. "This family has had the patience of Job."

Pantaleo's disciplinary record was leaked to Thinkprogress.org in March, and showed that he had seven complaints and 14 individual allegations made against him before 2014.

The Civilian Complaint Review investigator suspected of leaking the confidential document resigned later that month and was subpoenaed by the Department of Investigation. 

Pantaleo has remained on the force since the incident, making $20,000 more than before collecting overtime, and got married in June. 

However, Orta — who won a New York Press Club award for his footage of Garner's arrest — was arrested twice for gun and drug charges.

He claimed he was be targeting as retaliation for the video, but pleaded guilty to the charges in October and was sentenced to four years in prison.

A memorial with photos of Garner encased in a plastic box still remains at the spot he died at in 2014. However, the park across the street still remains crime-ridden, NY1 reported.

There have been 54 non-major crimes in the part so far with 34 arrests and 85 summonses, according to NY1. 

"His tragic death really focused this city and some extent this nation on the work we have to do to bring police and community closer together," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference in Queens Monday.

"We still have a lot of work to do in New York City and certainly all around the nation, but I can say for sure progress had been made in New York City."