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Holder launches federal probe into Eric Garner death

Decision follows Staten Island grand jury decision not to indict police officer.

By Mary Papenfuss
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Holder launches federal probe into Eric Garner death
A Protester is arrested by police on Sixth Avenue following a decision by a grand jury not to indict an NYPD officer involved in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City on December 3, 2014. Attorney General Holder is announcing his decision to begin a civil rights probe on the grand jury decision. Pboto by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that he's launching a civil rights investigation into the chokehold death of Eric Garner following a Staten Island grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer who killed him.

"The Justice Department will proceed with a federal civil rights investigation of Mr. Garner's death," Holder announced, saying it will be "independent, thorough, fair and expeditious."

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He called Garner's death a tragedy, and said that work that must be done to restore trust between police departments and their communities. Holder also asked that any protests linked to the case be peaceful. Holder and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch informed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio about the investigation before the announcement. Lynch, who has been nominated to succeed Holder as attorney general, has been monitoring the case.

Garner's family has asked for such a probe for months.

RELATED No charges for NYPD officer in choking death of Eric Garner

New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gilibrand called earlier in the day for a Department of Justice probe after the grand jury decision.

Gillibrand in a statement called the death of the Staten Island father of six a "tragedy that demands accountability."

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Nobody "unarmed should die on a New York City street corner for suspected low-level offense," the statement added. "I'm shocked by this grand jury decision, and will be calling on the Department of Justice to investigate."

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A group of New York City Council members, led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverto also called for a federal probe.

Garner, 43, died July 17 when he was apparently placed in a chokehold after police accused him of peddling untaxed "loose" cigarettes and arrested him on the street.

In remarks following the grand jury's decision President Obama called the tragedy "an issue that we've been dealing with for too long, and it's time for us to make more progress than we've made."

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