Grand Jury Clears Officer in Chokehold Death of Eric Garner

Esaw Garner, Emerald Garner, Gwen Carr, Ellisha Flagg

From left to right: Esaw Garner, wife of Eric Garner, daughter Emerald Garner, mother Gwen Carr, and sister Ellisha Flagg, mourn Eric Garner’s death.

A Staten Island grand jury has decided against an indictment of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner.

The grand jury considered various chargers against Officer Pantaleo including: reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide, and manslaughter. After spending months reviewing evidence from the case, the panel voted a “no-bill” and dismissed all potential charges against Officer Pantaleo. This decision was reached less than two weeks after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., voted to not bring charges against the officer who shot Michael Brown.

“After deliberation on the evidence presented in this matter, the grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment,” Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. said in a statement. Continuing, he acknowledged “the heartache” of Garner’s loved ones, “who have consistently carried themselves with grace during the past four months.”

After learning of the decision, Pantaleo issued a statement through the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association: “I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was killed July 15 while being arrested on Staten Island for allegedly selling individual cigarettes, or “loosies”, a misdemeanor offense under New York state law. Footage of this incident was caught on a cellphone. During the encounter, Garner is seen raising both hands in the air and telling officers not to touch him. The video shows Pantaleo grabbing Garner from behind and wrapping his arms around his neck in a chokehold, a move banned by the NYPD.

Garner is heard repeatedly pleading, “I can’t breathe!” as Pantaleo and other cops held him down while handcuffing him. Garner suffered from pulmonary issues and was asthmatic.

While there were multiple NYPD officers on the scene, “An indictment was considered only against Officer Pantaleo, who testified last, on Nov. 21, his lawyer, Stuart London, said. The other officers received immunity, he said.” according to The New York Times.

After this incident, Pantaleo was stripped of his badge and gun. A New York City Medical Examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and that it was a result of compression of the neck by a chokehold, as well as compression of his chest while he was being restrained by police.

Garner’s family has filed notice it plans to sue the city for $75 million on grounds including wrongful death, pre-death pain and suffering, and civil-rights violations.

Pantaleo now faces the prospect of command discipline and an Internal Affairs Bureau probe.