Police Officer Who Killed Eric Garner in Illegal Chokehold Not Indicted

New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo will not be indicted in the death of Eric Garner, who died last year after Pantaleo placed him in an illegal chokehold while attempting an arrest in July 2014. Pantaleo was not indicted by a grand jury comprised of 14 Caucasian and nine people of color, despite his illegal maneuver being caught on video. Garner’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, that noted the cause of death as “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” according to CNN.

Pantaleo was white. Garner was black.

Garner, a father of six, was being apprehended by police for allegedly selling unlicensed “loose” cigarettes when Pantaleo performed the hold that would lead to his death. The incident was caught of video and released, resulting in massive public outcry.

“The video showed Garner, 43, prone on the ground repeatedly saying ‘I can’t breathe; as officers restrained him, sometimes pressing his head on to the sidewalk,” reports Newsday. ”The images sparked outrage and prompted NYPD Commissioner William Bratton to announce that all officers would undergo special training for handling physical confrontations.”

Garner’s death was one of the first of a series of deadly encounters starting this summer and heading into the fall between police officers and communities of color. Since his death, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Tanisha Anderson and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Akir Gurley in New York, Vonderitt Myers Jr. in St. Louis, John Crawford in Ohio, and Darien Hunt in Utah have all died at the hands of police officers, despite being unarmed.

That doesn’t include those who have been violently attacked by officers but survived, including pregnant women who were shot but didn’t die, who have been tackled in holding cells, or all of the incidents that never made it into the media.

Perhaps the most frightening development in the lack of an indictment for Pantaleo is the fact that he was found not guilty even despite evidence showing exactly what occurred being caught on video. Coverage that proved beyond a doubt that he did in fact perform an illegal maneuver still wasn’t enough to cause the grand jury to hold him responsible in Garner’s death.

Video didn’t save the life of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man who died in July from a chokehold applied by a New York City police officer. And now it appears that video also wasn’t enough to persuade a New York grand jury to indict the officer who helped arrest the 43-year-old Garner on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island,” writes Peter Coy of Bloomberg News. Coy and others express concern that if even reliable, undeniable accounts of exactly what occurred at a situation aren’t enough to convict a police officer then there is little hope that body cameras may serve to curb a brutal police force with no repercussions for its actions.

Although the grand jury may have refused to indict Pantaleo, he may not be completely off the hook for his actions. Local Councilwoman Debi Rose, who represents the district where the homicide occurred, has said she urges the United States Department of Justice to pursue an independent investigation. “I cannot believe that the grand jury did not find adequate evidence to indict,” Ms. Rose (D-North Shore) told local publication the Advance. “This is really — it’s just devastating to a community that had hoped that justice would prevail and yet, once again, we find that justice was denied.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union is also calling on the department to create some real solutions to ensure no more people are killed by police tactics. “The failure of the Staten Island Grand Jury to file an indictment in the killing of Eric Garner leaves New Yorkers with an inescapable question: How will the NYPD hold the officers involved accountable for his death?” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman told SI Live. ”And what will Commissioner Bratton do to ensure that this is the last tragedy of its kind? Unless the Police Department aggressively deals with its culture of impunity and trains officers that they must simultaneously protect both safety and individual rights, officers will continue to believe that they can act without consequence.”

Much like in the case of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the family will have an opportunity to pursue a civil case as well, such as wrongful death. But for families whose loved ones are increasingly being taken from them by the unnecessarily lethal actions of local police forces, these suits do little to redeem the lives lost.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

145 comments

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

It seems, especially in New York, cops are not accountable for much nowadays. Truly sad.

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Will Rogers
Will Rogers4 years ago

And why only prosecute one cop, surely all the cops (5/6) were involved? If I and a gang of people held someone down until they died, we would all be prosecuted.

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Will Rogers
Will Rogers4 years ago

Ernest R, can you see the picture above? On the petition that shows Mr. Garner laying on the floor with a policeman on top of him wearing a top with the numbers 99 on the back. He has his arm around Mr Garners neck. Or do you think that photo been manipulated?
I'll say this again, Black people still seem to have the status of slaves in the Divided States of America....slaves were routinely killed for being disobedient. The police are not gods that we should accede to their every unreasonable order, Just because they wear a uniform and have taken an oath, that does not make them perfect people. They have to change and improve, everyone does! And there is such a thing as perfection, a plumber has to do a perfect job or your house will leak and that is unacceptable. An electrician cannot cut corners or you may die and they will get prosecuted. It seems the only people allowed to get away with doing a bad job are the people who are above regulations, such as cops, bankers and politicians which we all agree are the 3 most corrupt institutions we have.
What say you Ernie?

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Marc P.
Marc P4 years ago

Ernest R.: I don't know what video you saw but it must have been a different video than the rest of the world saw. The coroner's office ruled it was a homicide. And I find it quite interesting that after a policeman murders a man in plain sight ion video, and you make attempts to excuse this atrocity, you the blame ME for "Making things worse." Your callous disregard for human life is what is making things worse. Not me. Let me ask you a question... How does a person wake up one day and find themselves lacking the ethics and moral fiber to the point that they can excuse a murder? Thousands and thousands of people across the world are protesting Eric Garner's murder. The whole world is wrong except you regarding this?

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Carol Johnson
Carol Johnson4 years ago

Tragic outcome...be careful out there ...noted

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Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm4 years ago

There were a LOT of different ways to handle this ernest. they simply werent trained in the methods needed.

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Ernest R.
Ernest R4 years ago

@ Marc P. " Eric Garner was NOT resisting arrest". Of course he was. He refused to allow himself to be handcuffed, leaving the police no option but using force. The arm around his neck was not a chokehold as it neither put obstructive pressure on his windpipe nor did it block the carotid artery. The video clearly shows that when Garner was saying "I can't breathe", there was NO contact with his neck. .His death was due to an asthmatic condition. aggravated by his fakedown that could have been avoided by his compliance with a drill he knew too well. .Please don't make a tragedy worse than it already is.

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