New York police sergeant facing internal charges over chokehold death of Eric Garner
NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo choking Eric Garner in New York City (Screenshot/YouTube)

A New York City police sergeant is facing internal disciplinary charges for her role in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man whose fatal police encounter in 2014 spurred nationwide protests.

Sergeant Kizzy Adonis was served with departmental charges on Friday, police officials said, and placed on modified duty. Adonis is the first officer to be formally charged with wrongdoing in connection with Eric Garner's death.

Adonis was supervising officers at the scene and the department did not specify the exact charges she faces.

Garner died on July 17, 2014, after Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed his arm around Garner's neck. Police had stopped Garner on a sidewalk in the New York City borough of Staten Island on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes. His final words, "I can't breathe," were captured on video and became a rallying cry for protesters.

The Garner case was one of several high-profile instances in which unarmed black people died in police encounters, opening up a national debate over race, violence and policing.

A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in December 2014, sparking renewed protests throughout New York. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the incident as a potential civil rights violation.

The police department had put its internal review on hold at the request of federal prosecutors. But police said the decision to bring departmental charges against Adonis was prompted by a disciplinary statute of limitations that applied to her case but not Pantaleo's.

"All further proceedings concerning the Garner inquiry will continue to be stayed until the conclusion of the federal investigation," the department said in a statement.

The sergeants' union did not immediately comment.

The city agreed in July 2015 to pay Garner's family $5.9 million to settle wrongful death claims. A lawyer for the family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Bill Trott)