It was announced Wednesday that Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who held father-of-six Eric Garner in a chokehold before he died in August, has not been indicted by a Staten Island grand jury.
He was filmed by a friend of Garner approaching the 350-pound asthmatic man from behind and then taking him to the ground in a chokehold. The Staten Island man complained that he could not breathe, and Pantaleo can be seen pushing Garner’s face into the ground. The confrontation happened after Garner had been stopped by police for selling untaxed cigarettes.
The medical examiner ruled that Eric Garner’s death was a homicide caused by the chokehold, a maneuver that has been banned by the NYPD since 1993.
Two men were awarded $15,000 each from the city after suing for an incident when, “Pantaleo and/or Conca pulled down the plaintiffs’ pants and underwear, and touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence.” He has also been sued for wrongful arrest in a case that has yet to be settled by a man who claims he was stopped and detained by Pantaleo without sufficient reason.
Pantaleo has been placed on desk duty since Garner’s death, and may still face further disciplinary action from the NYPD.
Pantaleo released a statement through his union in the wake of the decision, saying
“I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”
Grand juries are designed to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring a case forward to trial, hearing evidence from the prosecution with no contribution from defense lawyers.
In this case, the 12-person jury saw the widely-viewed video of the incident, and heard testimony from Pantaleo and other officers. Only Pantaleo was up for indictment, with other officers receiving immunity. All 12 members of the jury had to agree for a decision to be made.
Bill de Blasio released a statement Wednesday saying “Today’s outcome is one that many in our city did not want. (…) The grand jury is but one part of the process (…) Should the federal government choose to act, we stand ready to cooperate.
While unlikely to spark a Ferguson-level reaction like the Darren Wilson grand jury decision, there may be protests in Staten Island and across the city. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have warned that violent unrest will not be tolerated, and Public Advocate Laetitia James urged that people remain calm.
Eric Garner’s son, 18-year-old Eric Snipes, said to the Daily News,
“It’s not going to be a Ferguson-like protest because I think everybody knows my father wasn’t a violent man and they’re going to respect his memory by remaining peaceful. It’s not going to be like it was there.”