Only one day before the fifth anniversary of Eric Garner’s passing, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn plan to announce that no civil rights or criminal charges will be brought against Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer responsible for Garner’s death.
The Justice Department has decided not to bring federal charges against Pantaleo, ending a years-long case that prompted national protests over excessive force by the police. It also ends all hope the Garner family and their supporters had that Officer Pantaleo would face prosecution.
The case ignited demonstrations and debates over the use of force by police officers and led to changes in policing practices across the United States. Garner, who was 43 at the time, died on a NY sidewalk on July 17, 2014, after Officer Pantaleo wrapped an arm around his neck from behind and took him to the ground while other officers put their weight on him, compressing his chest against the pavement.
Bystanders recording Mr. Garner captured his last words as he gasped “I can’t breathe.” A medical examiner testified at the disciplinary hearing that the pressure on Mr. Garner’s neck and chest set in motion the fatal asthma attack.
Reportedly none of the New York officers involved in Mr. Garner’s death have been charged with a crime or disciplined by the police department. Furthermore, a state grand jury declined to bring charges against Pantaleo in December 2014, after the officer testified in his own defense that he did not put Garner into a chokehold. The New York Police Department has prohibited the maneuver.
Garner’s family members — including his mother, Gwen Carr, and his widow, Esaw Snipes — were scheduled to meet with federal prosecutors and the Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday morning, according to a statement from Mr. Sharpton. Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York were scheduled to announce the decision after that meeting.
According to the New York Times, it’s ultimately up to Commissioner James P. O’Neill, as the final arbiter of police discipline, to decide whether Officer Pantaleo will be terminated or the department taking a less drastic action, like docking vacation time.
However, O’Neill will not make a formal decision until the police administrative judge renders her verdict, which he is still waiting on, spokesman for the department, Philip T. Walzak, said in a statement. “Because of the need to protect the integrity of the process, the N.Y.P.D. will not comment further at this time,” the statement said.