Grand Jury: New York City Police Officer Won’t Face Criminal Charges in Eric Garner Death

Thousands take part in the ‘We Will Not Go Back’ march and rally for Eric Garner in Staten Island in August. REUTERS

A New York City grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died in July after being restrained in an alleged police chokehold, a law-enforcement official said.

The white officer, Daniel Pantaleo, was seen in a widely circulated video recording of the July 17 encounter with his arm wrapped around Mr. Garner’s neck as Mr. Garner, an African American, cried “I can’t breathe.”

The New York Police Department has been preparing for possible protests in the wake of the announcement, which comes a little over a week after a grand jury in Missouri declined to indict a police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager.

Mr. Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island resident, was wrestled to the ground by a group of police officers trying to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. He died later at the hospital. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, caused in part by the chokehold.

Mr. Garner’s death stoked outrage across the city, testing the relationship between police and minority communities and prompting a review of NYPD arrest practices, which expressly prohibit chokeholds.

The grand jury had been hearing witnesses since September. Mr. Pantaleo testified before the grand jury on Nov. 21, his lawyer, Stuart London, said.

At the scene where Garner was wrestled to the ground, news of the decision began filtering through by mid-afternoon, and a small crowd gathered, raw anger emanating from several people.

One man, with his mouth covered with green and red cloth, repeatedly chanted: “Let them feel the pain.”

A woman yelled: “It was a homicide; who gets away with a homicide? It was on video!”

Abria Evans, 20-years-old, said of decision: “I think it’s horrible.”

“You see what’s going on,” she added, gesturing towards angry folks.

UPDATE from NYPD Confirms Eric Garner Was A Member of Organized Crime in Staten Island