Eric Garner: No charges for police officer accused of choking unarmed black man to death

The decision, though expected, is a blow to activists

Lily Puckett
New York
Tuesday 16 July 2019 16:06
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The Justice Department will not bring federal charges against a New York City police officer over the death of Eric Garner, the 43-year-old black man whose fatal chokehold death was caught on video in 2014.

Prosecutors plan to announce the decision to not pursue civil rights or criminal charges imminently, according to the New York Times.

The date, one day before the fifth anniversary of Mr Garner’s death, is the deadline for filing possible charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the officer filmed putting Mr Garner in the chokehold.

Mr Garner’s final words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry in the Black Lives Matter movement, the encompassing movement by which activists and citizens questioned law enforcement’s treatment of minorities, and hoped to bring about major changes.

One month after Mr Garner’s death, the teenager Michael Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The actions set off protests around the country that summer.

Activists who led those protests have already expressed criticism for the Justice Department’s decision. But the outcome was expected. While then-attorney general Loretta Lynch authorised the department to move forward with the case, it was taken over by Donald Trump’s Justice Department early on its in process. Headed by Jeff Sessions, the department stalled the case.

Police say they were attempting to arrest Mr Garner for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes outside a store in Staten Island. When Mr Garner refused to be handcuffed, officers put him in a chokehold, which are banned under police policy. Mr Pantaleo maintains that he actually used a legal manoeuvre called the “seatbelt.” Mr Garner’s medical examiner found that his death was caused by a chokehold.

None of the officers involved in Mr Garner’s death have been charged with a crime, nor have they been reprimanded by the New York Police Department. Mr Pantaleo remains an active member of the NYPD.

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