There's been a "highly unusual" shakeup in the stalled federal investigation into the death of Eric Garner, sources tell the NY Times and the Daily News. Garner's death at the hands of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in July 2014 was ruled a homicide by the NYC Medical Examiner, who determined that his death was caused by "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police." Chokeholds are prohibited by the NYPD, but Pantaleo maintains he did not intend to put Garner in a chokehold while trying to arrest him on a Staten Island sidewalk.

The Justice Department investigation is trying to determine if there's a case to be made that Pantaleo violated Garner's civil rights. The Times reports that the case has ground to a halt because federal prosecutors and local FBI officials in New York are against bringing charges, while the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department in Washington is reportedly in favor of prosecution. From the Times:

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, who as the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York oversaw the beginning of the federal inquiry before her appointment to Washington, has been considering for months how to proceed.

In recent weeks, the F.B.I. agents who have been investigating the case were replaced with agents from outside New York, according to five federal officials in New York and Washington. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are no longer assigned to the case. It is not clear whether civil rights prosecutors from Washington will work alone in presenting evidence to a grand jury in Brooklyn and in trying the case if charges are eventually brought.

Nobody is commenting on the shake-up on record, but one law enforcement source tells the Daily News that the Justice Department will likely seek an indictment against Pantaleo by the end of the year, before President Obama leaves office. "Then they'll leave (the Justice Department) for new jobs," the source said.

An attorney for Pantaleo, who avoided prosecution at the state level and has been on desk duty since Garner's death, tells the Times that "if it is true that the Justice Department is rejecting the recommendations of seasoned F.B.I. agents and assistant United States attorneys, this is a gross miscarriage of justice. In our system of justice, politics should never take the place of the rule of law."

The Times also notes that should the Justice Department proceed with a case against Pantaleo, the prosecution could be hobbled by this internal dissent: "If it goes to trial, defense lawyers would probably try to exploit that division and use it to sow doubt. They could even try to call F.B.I. agents who were taken off the case as defense witnesses, officials said. Another complicating factor, according to three federal officials, is that the disagreement between Washington and New York is reflected in the F.B.I. reports, which often become evidence at trial."

A federal grand jury was convened in Brooklyn in February and began hearing evidence, but the panel has not been put to a vote. In July 2015, Garner's family agreed to a $5.9 million settlement offer from the city, which Sergeants Benevolent Association head Ed Mullins condemned as "obscene."