NY lawmakers want DOJ probe of choking death

Six Democratic congressmen from New York are pressing Attorney General Eric Holder to open a federal investigation into the death of a Staten Island man at the hands of police last month, according to a report.

The New York Times says lawmakers, in their letter to Holder, also ask the Justice Department to investigate broader possible civil rights violations by police in enforcing a policy that goes after lower-level offenses — sometimes called a "broken window" approach.

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“To the extent the N.Y.P.D. is engaging in a racially selective law enforcement campaign pursuant to its broken windows approach, the constitutional and federal civil rights of black and Latino residents may be in jeopardy,” the congressmen write in the letter.

The more specific issue is the death of Eric Garner, 43, from injuries sustained when police put him in a chokehold and compressed his chest when trying to arrest him. 

The incident, which was caught on video, spurred a number of protests and criticism of New York policing policies. Police attempted to detain Garner after he was allegedly selling individual cigarettes on the street. 

“Mr. Garner’s death has taken place in the context of a broken windows policing strategy that appears to target communities of color for the enforcement of minor violations and low-level criminal offenses,” the lawmakers said.

The broken window approach follows from the theory that if a broken window is not repaired in a building, then it will lead to more windows being broken. 

The letter is led by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and is signed by five other New York Democrats — Reps. Yvette Clarke, Gregory Meeks, Charles Rangel, José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez. 

The lawmakers said the local district attorney is "not prepared to aggressively prosecute this case" and it could lead to a "miscarriage of justice."

“Eric Garner is dead,” Jeffries told the Times in an interview. “The person who videotaped the incident was arrested. And the officer who killed Mr. Garner in broad daylight remains free and on the N.Y.P.D.’s payroll. There’s something wrong with that picture."

The letter comes as the Justice Department is investigating a separate case in Missouri in which a police officer killed an unarmed black teen. The incident has caused protests, which have led to a number of violent confrontations with police in the last few days. 

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