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Officer in Eric Garner's death, Daniel Pantaleo, should face charges, federal prosecutors say

Senior officials in the Justice Department have reservations about accepting the recommendation, the New York Times reported.

NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo should be charged in

NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo should be charged in Eric Garner's death, federal civil rights prosecutors recommended, according to a New York Times report. Photo Credit: Bryan R. Smith

Federal civil rights prosecutors have recommended charging NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for putting Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, in a fatal choke hold during a 2014 arrest, the New York Times reported on Friday, citing unnamed officials.

But senior officials in the Justice Department have reservations about accepting the recommendation and indicting Pantaleo because the case might not be winnable, the Times reported.

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was stopped by police on July 17, 2014, for allegedly peddling cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk. Garner argued with police and was tackled by Pantaleo, who brought Garner to the ground with an arm around his neck. Choke holds have long been banned in the NYPD.

"I can't breathe!" Garner repeatedly said in widely seen cellphone video of the arrest. His dying words would become a rallying cry for protesters across the United States critical of racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Garner's death was ruled a homicide, and the city agreed to pay his family $5.9 million to settle a wrongful death claim.

In December 2014, a New York City grand jury voted not to charge Pantaleo in Garner's death, sparking further protests. Garner's family has been critical of how much time the federal investigation by the Justice Department has taken.

Pantaleo, who remains at the department on desk duty, could not immediately be reached for comment, and the department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the Times report.

The police labor union called the Justice Department's handling of the case "highly unusual and deeply troubling."

"It is long past time for the Justice Department's leadership to put an end to this fishing expedition, close the case without charges, and let Police Officer Pantaleo move forward," Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors made their recommendations for charging Pantaleo with civil rights violations in recent weeks, the Times reported, and asked Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to seek an indictment.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also has been briefed on the recommendations, the Times reported.

The results of an internal police inquiry into Pantaleo's actions have not been made public while the federal case continues.

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