Department of Justice Announces It Won’t Press Charges In Police Death Of Eric Garner

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The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it would not pursue charges against a New York City Police Department officer involved in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

Sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the case, told The Associated Press that the federal government would not prosecute Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his involvement in the 2014 case, as they found “insufficient evidence.”

According to Time, the statute of limitations was set to expire just a day after the DOJ announced it would not pursue a criminal conviction in the case.

Garner, who was 43 at the time of his death, died five years ago in a struggle with police that went viral online. Police said Garner, an African American man, was selling loose cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island New York when police attempted to arrest him. Garner refused to submit to being handcuffed and was brought to the ground by police, per Time.

Garner was captured on video 11 times prior to his death telling officers that he was unable to breathe before he passed out, per Time. Garner was later pronounced dead.

While Pantaleo, a white officer, has been accused of using a chokehold – which is not permitted under New York City Police policy – to take down Garner, the officer and his legal team insist he used a permitted method known as a “seatbelt.”

A medical examiner ruled that a chokehold played a role in Garner’s death, according to Time.

In a Tuesday press conference following the announcement, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said the family would continue to push back for action in the case.

“We’re here with heavy hearts because the DOJ has failed us,” Carr said. “Although we looked for better from them, five years ago my son said ‘I can’t breathe’ 11 times and today we can’t breathe because they have let us down.”

Garner’s mother called for New York City’s police commissioner to remove Pantaleo and all officers involved in the 2014 incident from the police force, saying that she believed the city was not safe with the officers on the street.

Pantaleo has been on administrative duty since Garner’s 2014 death, per USA Today.

There has been reaction online to the decision to not prosecute Pantaleo. Presidential candidate and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker shared his dissatisfaction on Twitter on Tuesday.

The case ignited discussions and protests in how law enforcement officers treat Black Americans.

New York City awarded the Garner family $5.9 million in a settlement in a civil case. In 2017, a review board said it believed that Pantaleo had used excessive force in the case, though Pantaleo has remained on the police force following the board’s decision. The DOJ had been investigating the case for several years before deciding not to press charges Tuesday, per USA Today.

According to Time, a New York state grand jury had also previously decided not to pursue charges against Pantaleo in the 2014 case.