Grand jury declines to indict officer in chokehold death of Eric Garner

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STATEN ISLAND (PIX11) -- 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 Garner, who died July 17 while being arrested outside a Staten Island convenience store for allegedly selling loose cigarettes, or “loosies.”

Ben Garner, Eric's father, showed up at the Staten Island District Attorney's office in tears, unable to speak with the media.  According to those close to him, just hours before he was hopeful there would be "justice for my son."

"I don't think we even needed a grand jury, we already had probable cause," Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, told PIX11 in an interview Wednesday morning.  She added that regardless of the decision, "It's OK to protest but we want to do it in a civil manner, we don't want to burn up our cities, we don't want to tear down our cities."

Carr, Garner's widow Esaw Garner and the Rev. Al Sharpton will appear at 7:30 p.m. at National Action Network Headquarters to address the jury's decision.

MORE: OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM STATEN ISLAND DISTRICT ATTORNEY OFFICE

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan expressed his condolences to Garner's family and loved ones, saying in a statement they "have consistently carried themselves with grace during the past four months."

Donovan added that, according to New York law, he was not permitted to disclose any of details of the grand jury.  He says he has filed an application "seeking authorization to publicly release specific information in connection with this grand jury investigation."

The lawyer for the Garner family, Jonathan Moore, said he was "astonished by the decision."

The case inspired outrage over officers’ behavior, especially when it comes to the apparent use of a long-prohibited chokehold.

Pantaleo issued the following statement regarding the jury decision, saying he never intended to cause harm.

“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.”

In a statement from the Police Benevolent Association, President J. Lynch also focused on Pantaleo's intentions: "There was a loss of life that both a family and a police officer will always have to live with.  It is clear that the officer’s intention was to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed and that he used the take down technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused."

Mayor de Blasio called it a "deeply emotional day," adding that New York has a "proud and powerful tradition of expressing ourselves through non-violent protest."

De Blasio promised an additional NYPD internal investigation, along with the US Attorney's investigation.  "Should the federal government choose to act, we stand ready to cooperate."

A criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor not affiliated with the case, Zachary Johnson, told PIX11 News the grand jury’s decision highlights three significant findings.

Namely, that they do not think Pantaleo intended to kill Garner; he did not intend to cause Garner serious physical injury; and he did not act in a way that was criminally reckless or negligent.

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.

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. According to the autopsy, Garner died of "compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

16 comments

  • GOTODC

    With all THE EVIDENCE that was presented, the grand jury still let this officer get away with murder. The jury system needs to be abolished. And one more thing, if New York City has a Ferguson, the fault will not only fall on the Department and the City, but on the FUCKING MORONS in the GRAND JURY. God help us all.

  • James Smith

    It very sad that COPS get treated as if there above the law. People are getting tired of this, might just start taking the law into their own hands. Start killing COPS and seeing if they can get away with it the same way they get away with killing us.

  • Aileen Watts

    This is a bullet to my heart He received no punishment, not even man slaughter. If this was anyone but the police they would have been convicted. How many people are in prison today serving life because they did not have the intent to kill a person but it happen because they tried to rob them, chase them, punch them, kick them not meaning or thinking they may cause their death. It wasn’t intended to kill but it happen and they are in prison today paying for a crime they did not intended to do. So, please spare me the bullsh-t about what intentions this or these officers had in order to or not indict.

  • mike

    This was a tragedy. My hope is that if there are protests, that they will remain peaceful. I’m sure some are disappointed with the decision but i never though this cop meant or set out to take a man life. My thoughts and prayers are with the garner family and also with the family of the police officer as well.

  • Richard

    I wish we would start focusing on all the good things that officers do instead of the 2 bad things they do. They clearly say this man was already in poor health. What’s to say that later that night he wouldn’t have had a heart attack or an asthma attack due to his obesity. I do not condone officer cruelty on anyone, but let’s show the good with the bad. What about that NC State Trooper that found that 3 year old child that was abducted and caused a multi-state amber alert. I bet you didn’t hear about that. This is what upsets me.

    • Ol' Skool

      An unarmed Back male is killed by law enforcement officers every 28 hours in America. Maybe the “good cops” should join in the chorus of those bemoaning the bad ones…..since it’s affecting the perception of all. If they don’t, they too deserve whatever negative press comes their way.

  • mike

    Again, let’s not set out to make Garner out to be some innocent soul here. This was someone who not only resisted arrest but sold cigarettes illegally. A “great” father doesn’t do that on multiple occasions and get arrested for it. A tragedy, but not a crime. I’m someone who just follows facts and evidence.

    • Lee

      Ok selling cigs wasn’t right but he didn’t rob, kill or attack anyone. So what u just kill him and it’s ok. Why not jus t walk up and start shooting black males. Seems to be ok for white officers. It terrifies me to think what my 3 young black grandsons might have to endure. Sooooo sad. It’s like their lives don’t matter, as bad as back in the day in the south. Are they going to start walking into our homes and dragging them out and killing them too.

  • izzy

    TEST ALL COPS FOR STEROIDS, GROWTH HORMONE, AND PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS THAT EFFECT THEIR PSYCHOLOGICAL STATE AND WATCH HOW MANY OF THEM LOSE THEIR JOBS !!!!!!!

  • alakhtal

    Reblogged this on Liberalism is Trust Fucked with Prudence. Conservatism is Distrust Tainted with Fear and commented:
    Can Chokehold Death reignite Ferguson in NY or Blacks decided to go back home to Africa swimming?
    Lew Rockwell’s Stooopid Question of Today:
    Who Benefits From the Ferguson Riots? AND the answer is Chapter-Eleveners.
    To avoid foreclosure and end up in prison. Every American Bankruptcy impatiently awaiting some godsend deranged Honiggas hit the street to close down and flee uhauling their OPM loots to enjoy far away unclaimed.
    DARREN WILSON: Fuck Ferguson. Catch me if you can.
    Honiggas were too slow and deranged to hit civility. They should done better in August than waiting 3 months for cop acquittal.
    What’s Obama doing about Ferguson? Great question! Fucking himself as always. Charming Republicans Impeaching Passy.
    Bunch of hypocrite Honiggas.
    Ron Paul is always right said: “anarchy is the only weapon American got to get things straight” Law is Obsolete indeed. National Guard troops is another word for Fugitive Slave Patrol. They’re Hessian mercenaries hired to headhunt blacks. Good Nigga is dead or Honigga.
    I ain’t believe my eyes to see that Ben Carson can frogmarched as cheap mouthpiece Honigga of FOXNEWS Rednecks Zombie Chapel to quarrel with an ambulance-chaser as Al Sharpton to fuck Ferguson anarchy.
    Welcome to Hell.
    Fuck Ferguson! Good choice. Enjoy pot and potting Potus at Martha’s Graveyard

  • alakhtal

    Can Chokehold Death reignite Ferguson in NY or Blacks decided to go back home to Africa swimming?
    Lew Rockwell’s Stooopid Question of Today:
    Who Benefits From the Ferguson Riots? AND the answer is Chapter-Eleveners.
    To avoid foreclosure and end up in prison. Every American Bankruptcy impatiently awaiting some godsend deranged Honiggas hit the street to close down and flee uhauling their OPM loots to enjoy far away unclaimed.
    DARREN WILSON: Fuck Ferguson. Catch me if you can.
    Honiggas were too slow and deranged to hit civility. They should done better in August than waiting 3 months for cop acquittal.
    What’s Obama doing about Ferguson? Great question! Fucking himself as always. Charming Republicans Impeaching Passy.
    Bunch of hypocrite Honiggas.
    Ron Paul is always right said: “anarchy is the only weapon American got to get things straight” Law is Obsolete indeed. National Guard troops is another word for Fugitive Slave Patrol. They’re Hessian mercenaries hired to headhunt blacks. Good Nigga is dead or Honigga.
    I ain’t believe my eyes to see that Ben Carson can frogmarched as cheap mouthpiece Honigga of FOXNEWS Rednecks Zombie Chapel to quarrel with an ambulance-chaser as Al Sharpton to fuck Ferguson anarchy.
    Welcome to Hell.
    Fuck Ferguson! Good choice. Enjoy pot and potting Potus at Martha’s Graveyard

  • Bill

    Yes the police over reacted and fear most definitely played a major role in the final out come. My issue is the fact that the public does not respect the job that the police have to do. What gives Joe Bystander the right to interfere with the police while they are attempting to do their job. Take the story of the officer that was accused of throwing a pregnant woman to the floor and then knocked another woman down, is the job of the police to protect the innocent as well as an alleged criminal? Did the officer know what the intentions of the second woman were? Let police do the job they were trained for. If you did not do anything wrong and have nothing to hide don’t be a big shot and argue. Adhere to the instructions given and deal with the situation. As for Eric Garner, the officer(s) were wrong. Excessive force was not called for. In defense of the police I believe fear took over as a result of how large a man Eric was.

  • Angel

    So what the city of New York city is saying is that they can kill and not go to jail for what theybdid when they are in the wrong? Wow what happen to justice?..

Comments are closed.