No Charges in Eric Garner Chokehold Case for N.Y.P.D. Officer

J. David Goodman et al., New York Times, December 3, 2014

A Staten Island grand jury voted on Wednesday not to bring criminal charges in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a white police officer.

The decision was reached after months of testimony, including from the officer who used the chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo. {snip}

For days, the New York Police Department has been preparing for a new round of protests, which first began in the city after the Ferguson decision and were expected to continue and possibly grow if the grand jury declined to bring charges against the officer.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying that it was a “deeply emotional day” for the Garner family and all New Yorkers, acknowledged that many people would not agree with the grand jury’s decision.

{snip}

The officer at the center of the Staten Island case released a statement offering the family of Mr. Garner his sympathies.

“I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves,” Officer Pantaleo said. “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.”

Jonathan C. Moore, a lawyer for the Garner family, said they hoped that federal prosecutors would continue to examine the case, and he urged people upset by the decision to voice their dismay, but to do so peacefully.

“We’re astounded by the outcome of the grand jury process and that after hearing months of evidence and having deliberated that they would find no true bill as to any potential criminal charge,” Mr. Moore said in a phone interview.

“It’s very upsetting to us–we obviously hope that the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, Loretta Lynch, will take a close look at this.”

{snip}

The grand jury, impanelled by the Staten Island district attorney, Daniel M. Donovan Jr., in September, has weighed evidence, including a cellphone video recorded by bystanders of Mr. Garner’s violent arrest, and heard testimony from the officers involved.

{snip}

The case exposed apparent lapses in police tactics–chokeholds are banned by the Police Department’s own guidelines–and raised questions about the aggressive policing of minor offenses in a time of historically low crime. The officers involved, part of a plainclothes unit, suspected Mr. Garner of selling loose cigarettes on the street near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, a complaint among local business owners.

Mr. Garner’s death hastened an effort to retrain all the department’s patrol officers and brought scrutiny on how officers who violate its rules are disciplined. Officer Pantaleo has been stripped of his gun and badge.

It was unclear whether Officer Pantaleo would return to enforcement duties. Commissioner Bratton said he would remain on suspension pending an internal investigation by the Police Department.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who is scheduled to hold a news conference with Mr. Garner’s family later in the evening, said that he was not surprised by the decision and that he had little faith in local prosecutors when it came to pursuing cases against the police.

“People thought we were being extreme,” Mr. Sharpton said. “But now, I think you can see, we have no confidence in the state grand juries, whether in Ferguson or in New York, because there is an intrinsic relationship between state prosecutors and the police; they depend on the police for their evidence, they run for office and depend on the unions for endorsements.”

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