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Mother of Eric Garner Asks White House Help to Move DOJ on Civil Rights Case

(Wafa' Media Foundation)

The mother of a Staten Island man who died after being placed in a chokehold-like restraint by a police officer during a verbal confrontation over selling loose cigarettes has been to the White House to ask that they nudge the Justice Department for movement in her son’s case.

Eric Garner, 43, died in the July 17, 2014, confrontation, which was captured by passer-by video as he repeatedly told officers “I can’t breathe” before passing out on the sidewalk. That December, a grand jury decided to not indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who had put his arm around Garner’s neck from behind and pushed him to the ground.

After the grand jury’s announcement, then-Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would be proceeding with a federal civil rights investigation into Garner’s death. He said that wouldn’t entail the DOJ’s own investigative work as well as reviewing the local jurisdiction’s materials.

The city of New York agreed to pay the Garner family nearly $6 million to settle a civil action in July 2015. After investigators from the FBI’s New York Field Office recommended that no charges be brought in the case, Attorney General Loretta Lynch reassigned the case to agents outside the state in October 2016.

Wondering what happens now, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, has turned to the executive branch for answers.

“I talked to Omarosa [Tuesday],” Carr told American Urban Radio Networks in an interview posted today, referring to Omarosa Manigault, director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison. “We were invited to the White House. When we got there they hadn’t cleared us yet, but she still came and met with us.”

“She was going to look into my son’s case, she had made a couple of phone calls, but obviously she recognized she was calling the wrong place. But now she has a handle on who she really should call and she says that she’s going to do it.”

Asked what she expected, Carr replied, “I want this Justice Department to be fair. I want them to look into my son’s case objectively, and I’m hoping we get a positive outcome.”

Carr added she wants “to see that the police officers that day that caused my son’s death stand accountable for their gross misconduct.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters today “that’s a Department of Justice question, and I think I would — I mean for us to get involved in a case — a specific case would be highly inappropriate, in terms of trying to guess what the outcome of a case should be.”