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Sharpton calls for arrest of NYPD officer in chokehold death of Eric Garner

The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks during a rally,

The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks during a rally, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in New York to address the medical examiner's report which said that Eric Garner's death was caused by a chokehold, a banned police maneuver. Credit: AP / Julie Jacobson

The Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday called for the arrest of the NYPD officer whose use of a chokehold while arresting a man on Staten Island was determined by the medical examiner to be to blame for his death.

Sharpton called the autopsy report Friday classifying Eric Garner's death as a homicide "in and of itself probable cause for an arrest."

Sharpton was joined at his Harlem storefront headquarters by Garner's family, including his widow, Esaw Garner, who said: "I want to thank God above for giving us justice for my husband, so that we can move forward and get this cop done with. That's it."

Sharpton challenged Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan to either convene a grand jury to indict the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, or turn the case over to federal prosecutors.

"I said to Donovan today that if probable cause is there, what you gonna do? Give it to the feds? Or move [on it]?"

Donovan's office didn't return messages seeking comment.

Garner, 43, died July 17 while NYPD officers were trying to arrest him on suspicion of peddling untaxed cigarettes. The encounter -- caught on a bystander's amateur video -- shows Pantaleo wrapping his arm around a protesting Garner's neck, digging a knee into his back and pushing his face onto the sidewalk. Garner repeatedly says, "I can't breathe."

In ruling Garner's death a homicide, the medical examiner blamed "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

A homicide finding means only that a person's death was caused by another. It is not by itself a finding of criminality.

Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, said she was elated when she heard about the autopsy's findings.

"I was in a store and when I got the telephone call, I guess people thought I was crazy. I just started saying, 'Thank you, Jesus!' " she said Saturday.

Pantaleo, stripped of his shield and gun shortly after the incident, is on modified duty.

His labor union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said in a statement Friday that had Garner "not resisted the lawful order of the police officers placing him under arrest, this tragedy would not have occurred." The statement also noted his poor health.

The autopsy report said the 350-pound Garner's poor health -- he was asthmatic, diabetic and more -- was a contributing factor to his death, but not the primary one.

Sharpton plans to lead a march across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Aug. 23 calling for justice in the case.

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