Posted on July 16, 2019

Justice Department Won’t Bring Federal Charges Against Police Officer in Eric Garner Case

Sadie Gurman and Corinne Rame, Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2019

Federal prosecutors won’t bring civil-rights charges against a New York police officer accused of killing an unarmed black man, people familiar with the decision said Tuesday, five years after the incident became a flashpoint over race and policing across the U.S.

On July 17, 2014, New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, attempted to arrest Eric Garner, an unarmed black man on Staten Island who the officer believed was selling untaxed cigarettes. Mr. Garner died after an altercation with the officer, who is accused of using a prohibited chokehold. A New York City medical examiner ruled Mr. Garner’s death a homicide. Mr. Pantaleo has said he acted lawfully and that Mr. Garner died from health complications.


{snip} Before his death, Mr. Garner repeated the phrase “I can’t breathe,” which became a rallying cry for activists.

After a state grand jury declined to indict the officer, the Justice Department opened an investigation into whether Mr. Pantaleo violated Mr. Garner’s civil rights when he placed him in an alleged chokehold.

After federal prosecutors’ investigation dragged on, local officials moved forward with an internal disciplinary trial within the NYPD. {snip}

A lawyer for Mr. Pantaleo said his client didn’t use a chokehold but rather a “seat belt maneuver,” which he said was a justified use of force against an individual resisting arrest. The lawyer said Mr. Garner ultimately died from health issues.


Civil-rights prosecutors under Mr. Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch felt confident moving ahead with charges against Mr. Pantaleo but faced resistance from federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, who said they weren’t sure there was enough evidence to bring a case they could win.