Family members of a man who died in police custody, the Rev. Al Sharpton and others met with federal prosecutors Friday to press for an investigation into the 43-year-old father's death, which has sparked national outrage.
"The civil rights of Eric Garner were violated," Sharpton said after the closed-door meeting with officials from the criminal division of the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn. "That led to his death."
An amateur video shows a plainclothes police officer placing Garner in what appears be a chokehold last week while arresting him on Staten Island. Garner can be heard gasping, "I can't breathe!". Chokeholds are banned under NYPD policy.
Autopsy results are pending. One officer has been stripped of his gun and badge pending an internal NYPD investigation into Garner's death and another has also been placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two EMTs have been placed on modified duty.
Sharpton joined Garner's widow, Esaw; his mother, Gwen Carr; and his daughter, Erica, at the meeting with prosecutors. Garner's mother and widow walked solemnly into the U.S. attorney's office, holding hands with Sharpton. No family members spoke to reporters.
Civil rights lawyers Sanford Rubenstein and Michael Hardy and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a longtime activist clergyman from Brooklyn, also attended the meeting.
They met with the U.S. attorney's eastern district's chief of the criminal division, James McGovern, and the chief of civil rights for the criminal division, Taryn Merkl.
The U.S. attorney's office had no immediate comment, spokesman Robert Nardoza said.
Sharpton likened Garner's death to notorious police brutality cases such as the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. He said the video shows that police and paramedics were indifferent to Garner's suffering.
"There can be no doubt at some point of 11 cries of 'I can't breathe,'" Sharpton said. "There can be no doubt based on the videotapes that clearly the EMS workers and other police did nothing intentionally to stop the illegal use of a chokehold and there can be no doubt that the chokehold was used with intent."
Sharpton said Garner's family is asking to meet with the Staten Island district attorney's office to "deal with the investigation there."
His family will speak publicly for the first time at a National Action Network rally on Saturday morning.