The Department of Justice will not bring charges against a New York City police officer involved in the July 17, 2014, death of Eric Garner.
What’s the background?
Garner was confronted by police on a sidewalk outside of a store in Staten Island and accused of illegally selling cigarettes. Officer Daniel Pantaleo tried to restrain Garner using a hold around his neck. In a cellphone video taken by a bystander, Garner can be heard calling out “I can’t breathe” several times during the altercation.
Garner died shortly afterward, and the New York City medical examiner determined that his death had been caused by “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”
Pantaleo has always professed his innocence.
The Black Lives Matter movement called for justice in Garner’s death, saying that the use of a choke hold was a disproportionate response to the alleged illegal sale of cigarettes. The police union has contested that what Pantaleo did was a “seat-belt hold” not a choke hold, a crucial difference since the NYPD prohibits the use of choke holds by officers.
A grand jury had already decided not to indict Pantaleo. New York City paid Garner’s family a $5.9 million settlement in 2015.
What did the DOJ say now?
The Department of Justice did not make any decision in this case. Rather, it plans to let the time expire on the five-year window that it had to bring charges against Pantaleo before the statute of limitations protects him from prosecution. Those five years are up on Wednesday.
The only remaining punishment that Pantaleo could face at this point comes from the NYPD itself, which is still conducting a disciplinary proceeding.