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Federal prosecutors won't bring charges against NYPD oficers in Eric Garner's death, sources say

Gwen Carr and members of Eric Garner's family

Gwen Carr and members of Eric Garner's family arrive at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Richard P. Donoghue for a meeting on her son's case. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn told Eric Garner's family there will be no federal civil rights charges filled relating to his 2014 chokehold death during an NYPD arrest.

The notification occured Tuesday morning in a meeting at the U.S. Attonrey's Ofice. Prosecutors have scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. to discuss the case.

The meeting in Brooklyn comes on the eve of the five-year deadline for charging NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s July 17, 2014, asphyxiation death.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been a Garner family spokesman, called the decision a "disgrace and judicial malpractice."

“With a video with people saying what happened, with us audibly hearing 11 times ‘ I can’t breathe,'" Sharpton said.  “This decision says that the federal civil rights are not protected no matter what the evidence may be.”

Garner, 43, was killed on Staten Island after Pantaleo put an arm around his neck and took him down from behind during an arrest for allegedly  selling untaxed cigarettes.

The case became a flashpoint on issues of race and the police's use of force after a cellphone video showed him gasping, “I can’t breathe” as he was subdued.

Staten Island’s district attorney did not file charges, and federal authorities began investigating. The statute of limitations on federal civil rights charges is five years.

After the cellphone video of Garner’s death went viral on the internet, it led to protests and inspired the Black Lives Matter movement, which took his dying words as a rallying cry.

The city medical examiner ruled that Garner’s death was due to a chokehold and chest compression that set off a "lethal cascade.”

But attorneys for Pantaleo denied that he used the chokehold, which has been banned for officer use by the NYPD for decades, saying that he used a so-called "seat-belt hold" to arrest Garner.

Federal charges for excessive force require proof that an officer intended to violate someone’s civil rights.

Garner’s case was initially investigated by federal prosecutors and FBI agents based in New York, but was later transferred to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division in Washington amid reports that local prosecutors didn’t think a case was merited.

No case was filed at the end of the Obama administration by then-Attorney Gen. Loretta Lynch, leaving the case to the Trump administration.

An internal disciplinary proceeding against Pantaleo, whose salary rose while he was transferred to modified duty after the Garner incident, ended last month.

An NYPD hearing officer is to make a confidential recommendation to the police commissioner, James O'Neill, who will decide how, if at all, to discipline Pantaleo. He could be fired.

With Matthew Chayes

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