In a case that sparked days of protest and calls for reform of the New York Police Department, a grand jury has decided not to indict an officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo will not face criminal charges in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, who died July 17 while being arrested outside a Staten Island convenience store for allegedly selling loose cigarettes, or “loosies.”
The lawyer for the Garner family, Jonathan Moore, said that he was “absolutely astonished” in an interview with NY1.
The case inspired outrage over officers’ behavior, especially when it comes to the apparent use of a long-prohibited chokehold.
PIX11’s continuing coverage of Eric Garner’s in-custody death
Shortly after the fatal encounter, Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and badge and put on modified duty. Four EMS workers who responded to the scene but apparently did not try to resuscitate Garner were suspended without pay.
Called “barbaric” by his family, Garner’s arrest was caught on camera by an onlooker. That widely watched footage shows 43-year-old Garner telling officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.
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Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck in an apparent chokehold, a move banned under NYPD policy for some 20 years.
Garner, who was heavyset and had asthma, could be heard gasping, repeating, “I can’t breathe.” Minutes later, he was dead.
The city Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Garner’s death a homicide and found that a chokehold contributed to it. An expert forensic pathologist hired by Garner’s family, Dr. Michael Baden, agreed with the medical examiner’s findings, saying there was hemorrhaging on Garner’s neck indicative of neck compressions.
But police union officials and Pantaleo’s lawyer have argued that the officer used a takedown move taught by the police department, not a chokehold, and that Garner’s poor health was the main reason he died.
The New York verdict comes shortly after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, made its decision in another high-profile case involving the death of an unarmed person at the hands of a police officer.
On Nov. 24, a grand jury declined to charge former officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who, like Garner, was unarmed when he was confronted by police and later died.
That decision spurred days of unrest across the country and in Ferguson, where some demonstrations became violent with crowds torching businesses and cars in the St. Louis suburb.
Both cases, that of Brown and Garner, have sparked calls for federal prosecutors to bring civil rights charges against police.
In October, Garner’s family filed a notice of claim to sue the city, its police department and six police officers for $75 million.
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