New York Cops Won't Face Charges in Eric Garner’s Arrest Death

(Bloomberg) -- A federal prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence for a criminal case against New York City police in the 2014 death of Eric Garner, whose arrest by an officer using a choke hold was captured on video by bystanders and animated the Black Lives Matter movement.

The video shows Garner, 43, saying “I can’t breathe” and gasping for breath as officer Daniel Pantaleo applied a choke hold. A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, and his last words became a rallying cry by demonstrators protesting police brutality.

However, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue insisted Tuesday that federal authorities had closely examined the video and other evidence before concluding there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Pantaleo or other officers with violating Garner’s civil rights laws.

While the video captured the “tragedy” of Garner’s death, Donoghue said, Pantaleo engaged in two established police tactics to restrain a suspect. Those efforts “deteriorated” as the encounter progressed, he said.

Officers attempted to arrest Garner after receiving complaints for he selling untaxed cigarettes. But Garner resisted being handcuffed, so Pantaleo tried restraint technique before the two fell backward into a storefront window, Donoghue said. For about seven seconds of that collission, Pantaleo had his left arm around Garner’s neck in what was "in effect a chokehold,” the prosecutor said.

“Mr. Garner at this point stated, ‘I can’t breath,’ but I would point out he made this statement only after he fell to the sidewalk and after Officer Pantaleo released his grip on Mr. Garner’s neck,” Donoghue said. “Significantly, Officer Pantaleo was not engaged in a chokehold when he said he could not breath and neither Officer Pantaleo nor any other officer applied a chokehold on Mr. Garner after he said ‘I can’t breath.’”

Donoghue said it was “a very difficult decision” and was considered by the highest levels at the Justice Department, including Attorney General William Barr.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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