(NEW YORK) — The FBI is “monitoring” the investigation into the death of Eric Garner, who died in the custody of the New York Police Department last week, officials tell ABC News.
Eric Garner, who was 6-foot-3 and roughly 350 pounds, died Thursday as police struggled to arrest him on suspicion of selling “loosies,” or individual cigarettes, according to the NYPD. A video of the incident showed police apparently putting Garner in a chokehold while he says he can’t breathe.
Authorities said he appeared to have a heart attack, but the results of an autopsy have not yet been released.
Two law enforcement officials briefed on the case told ABC News on Tuesday that the FBI is “monitoring the situation in case (agents) need to move on it.” The case could fall under the FBI’s civil rights-enforcement authority, according to officials.
The NYPD told ABC News Tuesday that an internal police report prepared right after Garner’s death played down the incident, with officers saying Garner was not in “great distress” during the arrest.
The Internal Affairs report quoted two officers, Sgt. Dhanan Saminath and Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, telling supervisors immediately after the incident that cops were “maintaining control of him” and that Garner’s condition did not seem serious, a law enforcement source told ABC News.
Adonis did tell supervisors that she “believed she heard the perpetrator state that he was having difficulty breathing,” the source said.
The NYPD placed Officer Daniel Pantaleo, an 8-year veteran who was seen in the video holding Garner, on modified assignment pending the outcome of the dual probes by the district attorney and Internal Affairs.
Panataleo’s gun and badge were taken away pending the outcome of the investigations.
“We’re hanging back right now. We wouldn’t want to get in the way of the criminal investigation” being conducted by the district attorney, another federal source said.
FBI spokesman Christos Sinos stressed that a formal inquiry has not yet been opened up.
Garner’s funeral will be held Wednesday in Brooklyn.
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