In Eric Garner case, Justice Department declines civil rights charges against New York City police officer


The U.S. Department of Justice will not bring civil rights charges against the New York City police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, a person familiar with the case confirmed to Fox News.

Garner, 43, died in 2014 during his arrest for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes outside a Staten Island convenience store. He refused to be handcuffed, and officers took him down.

In a video taken by a bystander, Garner was heard crying out “I can’t breathe” at least 11 times before he fell unconscious. The phrase has since become a rallying cry among those protesting perceived racial injustices perpetrated by police departments nationwide.

Garner was black; the police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, is white.

FILE – In this May 13, 2019, file photo, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house in Staten Island, N.Y. Time is running out for federal prosecutors to take action in the 2014 death of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man heard on video crying “I can’t breathe” after Pantaleo put him in an apparent chokehold. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)

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The decision not to bring charges against Pantaleo comes a day before the statute of limitations was set to expire, marking five years since the encounter that led to Garner’s death.

A state grand jury also refused to indict the officer on criminal charges.

Garner’s family and attorney were meeting with federal prosecutors Tuesday morning, while a news conference was planned later with the Rev. Al Sharpton, where they are expected to address the outcome.

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Pantaleo’s attorney, Stuart London, told the Associated Press that he was not immediately aware of the decision.

Chokeholds are banned under police policy. Pantaleo maintained he used a legal takedown maneuver called the “seatbelt.”

The medical examiner’s office has said a chokehold contributed to Garner’s death.

The New York Police Department brought Pantaleo up on departmental charges earlier this year. An administrative judge has not ruled whether he violated policy. He could face dismissal, but Police Commissioner James O’Neill has the final say.

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In the years since Garner’s death, Pantaleo has remained on the job but not in the field, and activists have decried the fact he’s still being issued paychecks that include union-negotiated raises.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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