The F.B.I. is now actively monitoring the circumstances surrounding the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, The Wire has learned. Garner died Thursday after New York City police tried to arrest him for selling individual cigarettes, something that is illegal, but not uncommon.
His death drew national attention when a video of his arrest was widely disseminated, showing police putting Garner into an apparent chokehold, forcing him to the ground, and ignoring cries from Garner that he couldn't breathe.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, N.Y.P.D. commissioner Bill Bratton said that the lead investigative agency at this time is the Staten Island District Attorney. He said that police investigators have spoken to the F.B.I. "to discuss their monitoring of this investigation," and that he would "not be surprised" if they began a civil rights violation case. He said that "consistent policing" was of the utmost importance and refuted the idea that race was a factor in the incident.
Marching w/ family of Eric Garner & NAN Staten Island. Eric died after being being placed in a chokehold by police. pic.twitter.com/OWypHF2V0Y— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) July 19, 2014
The Reverend Al Sharpton and director Spike Lee, two prominent New York City-based Civil Rights activists, were quick to denounce Garner's death. Lee released a video of the arrest edited with clips from his classic 1989 film about race relations in Brooklyn, Do The Right Thing on his YouTube page.