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This Day In Black History, Dec 3, 2014, Grand Jury Clears Cop of Choking Eric Garner To Death

Grand Jury Declines to Indict NYPD Officer in Eric Garner Chokehold Death

“I Can’t Breath,” were the last words heard around the world when White NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo choked the life out of Eric Garner, July 17, 2014. Then a Staten Island grand jury left us all breathless, when it cleared an Officer Pantaleo of criminal wrongdoing, December 3, 2014 (see the cover of the December 4, 2014, Daily News below).

In delivering a vote of “no true bill,” jurors determined there was not probable cause that a crime was committed by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo – who was seen on a widely watched on the high-publicized video that went viral on social media – wrapping his arm around Eric Garner’s neck as he yelled, “I can’t breathe!” during the July 17 summary execution.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday that the Justice Department would be conducting its own investigation into Garner’s death and that prosecutors will also conduct a complete review of the material gathered during the local investigation.

“We have all seen the video of Mr. Garner’s arrest. His death, of course, was a tragedy,” he said.

“Mr. Garner’s death is one of several recent incidents across the country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and protect,” Holder added. “This is not a New York issue or a Ferguson issue alone.”

Garner, who had been stopped by Pantaleo and several other NYPD officers, including two sergeants, on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused in part by the chokehold. The father of three’s health issues, including obesity, were listed as contributing factors in the autopsy report.

“Mr. Garner’s death is one of several recent incidents across the country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and protect,” Holder added. “This is not a New York issue or a Ferguson issue alone.”

Garner, who had been stopped by Pantaleo and several other NYPD officers, including two sergeants, on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused in part by the chokehold. The father of three’s health issues, including obesity, were listed as contributing factors in the autopsy report.

The Department of Justice investigated Garner’s death for years. On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, Garner’s family and the black community are left breathless again. The day before the five year anniversary of the incident, the inquiry ended with no charges.

The Department of Justice had been conducting a civil rights investigation into Garner’s death for years, but a statute of limitations on the case meant that the agency had until Wednesday — the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death — to announce what charges Pantaleo would face.

The DOJ argued that ultimately, there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Pantaleo intentionally harmed Garner during a 2014 arrest. Pantaleo has been accused of using an NYPD-prohibited chokehold to restrain Garner, and the unarmed man’s cries of “I can’t breathe” were viewed by millions after a video of the arrest went viral in July 2014.

“When we evaluated Officer Pantaleo’s actions in light of his training and experience, Mr. Garner’s size and weight and actions to resist arrest in the duration and escalating nature of the interaction, we determined that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pantaleo acted in willful violation of federal law,” Richard Donoghue, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said during a press conference Tuesday.

The DOJ’s decision, which was initially reported by the New York Times early on Tuesday, was not entirely unexpected. In recent years, several news reports on the case have noted that there was a sharp divide between the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which supported charging Pantaleo, and federal prosecutors in New York, who argued that the case against the officer was too difficult to prove. The investigation was handled by two different presidential administrations and three attorney generals before finally being closed by current US Attorney General William Barr.

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About AJ Woodson (2375 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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