The United States Justice Department, as The Inquisitr reported, announced Tuesday that New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was shown on a widely seen viral video choking 43-year-old Eric Garner to death on a New York City street, will not face federal prosecution.
It was Attorney General William Barr — appointed by Donald Trump and confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate in February — who personally made the final decision against prosecuting the officer, overruling lawyers in the DOJ’s own Civil Rights division who told Barr that enough evidence existed to charge Pantaleo, according to a CNN report on Tuesday.
Barr’s decision to let the police officer walk free comes just one day before the five-year anniversary of Garner’s death on a Staten Island, New York street corner where police suspected Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes. When Garner protested, denying that he was selling cigarettes illegally, officers seized him, and Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold, not releasing the hold even as Garner was heard on a video recording saying, “I can’t breathe” numerous times, as WNBC-TV reported.
A Justice Department official told NBC News that there was not enough evidence that Pantaleo acted “willfully” in causing Garner’s death, which was ruled a homicide by a New York medical examiner.
“An officer’s mistake, fear, misperception or even poor judgment does not constitute willful conduct under federal criminal civil rights law,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard P. Donoghue said in a press conference, as quoted by CNN.
Pantaleo remains on the New York City Police Department payroll, and in fact received a raise of about $20,000, to a total compensation of nearly $120,000, while he worked a desk job after Garner’s death, according to The New York Daily News.
The bystander who filmed a viral video of the incident that led to Garner’s death, Ramsey Orta, remains in prison on drugs and weapons charges, according to a Daily News report.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, took to her Twitter account after the announcement of Barr’s decision, writing “This is not the end.”
United States House rep from New York Hakeem Jeffries also posted on Twitter, with the reminder that murder has no statute of limitations.
So-called Department of Justice will let Eric Garner’s killer walk.— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) July 16, 2019
But don’t sleep too well tonight.
There is no statute of limitations for murder.
Justice delayed will not be justice denied #EricGarner #RestInPower. pic.twitter.com/HxXwwOZvO0
The five-year statute of limitations on a civil rights violation would have expired on Wednesday.
A grand jury in New York City earlier ruled against indicting the officer for Garner’s death, as NBC News reported. Earlier this year, Pantaleo was tried in an internal NYPD disciplinary proceeding, but the outcome of that process has not yet been announced, meaning that there remains a chance that the officer will retain his job as a New York City police officer.