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Probe of NY Police Killing Sparks Turf War

MANHATTAN (CN) — By attempting to investigate a local police killing of an unarmed black man, prosecutors from an upstate New York county are violating an executive order intended to avoid conflicts of interest, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a lawsuit.

On April 17, Troy patrol Sgt. Randall French fired eight times at Edson Thevenin, a 37-year-old father who allegedly struck the officer's vehicle during a drunken car chase.

Representatives of Schneiderman's office arrived on the scene that day in keeping with an executive order that Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued in June, tapping the attorney general as a special prosecutor in suspected cases of excessive police force.

Cuomo's office had faced pressure to remove local prosecutors from these investigations since a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict New York City police officer Daniel Panteleo in late 2014, even though a viral video captured him placing the unarmed Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold.

The failure to prosecute Pantaleo — and other police accused of needlessly killing civilians — sparked popular protest that drove traffic to a halt across New York City's streets, highways, bridges and tunnels for weeks after the grand jury disbanded.

Schneiderman's office says that Rensselaer County's District Attorney Joel Abelove has eroded public trust by insisting upon taking a case that is no longer his to investigate to a grand jury, which reportedly cleared French of wrongdoing on Friday.

"My office has worked collaboratively with district attorneys across the state in pursuit of that goal, conducting fair, comprehensive, and independent investigations in every case within our jurisdiction," the attorney general wrote on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, as we've alleged today, District Attorney Abelove's actions not only violate the law, but directly undermine the public's confidence in law enforcement, making the jobs of police officers and district attorneys throughout the state more difficult," he added.

Schneiderman's office said that its Albany County Supreme Court petition marks the first lawsuit to prevent a district attorney from violating the governor's order.

Abelove's office did not respond to a telephone request for comment left after business hours.

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