The Justice Department has replaced the New York team of agents and lawyers investigating the death of Eric Garner, officials said, a highly unusual shake-up that could jump-start the long-stalled case and put the government back on track to seek criminal charges.
Mr. Garner, 43, died in 2014 on a Staten Island street corner, where two police officers confronted him and accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes. One of the officers, Daniel Pantaleo, was seen on a video using a chokehold, prohibited by the New York Police Department, to subdue him. Mr. Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for protesters around the country.
Federal authorities have been investigating whether officers violated Mr. Garner’s civil rights in his fatal encounter with the police. But the case had been slowed by a dispute because federal prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials in New York opposed bringing charges, while prosecutors with the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department in Washington argued there was clear evidence to do so.