No charges for white police officer involved in Eric Garner’s chokehold death | US News
A white police officer involved in the chokehold death of a black man will not face criminal charges, say US federal prosecutors.
Eric Garner died in July 2014 after crying out “I can’t breathe” 11 times before falling unconscious.
Police in New York were trying to arrest him on charges of selling loose, unlicensed cigarettes outside a Staten Island store.
The incident was captured on camera and made headlines around the world, contributing to the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Many people claimed the actions in the video were emblematic of a longstanding problem with police attitudes towards minorities in the US.
New York attorney Richard Donoghue told a news conference that Mr Garner’s death was tragic but there was not enough evidence to prove Officer Daniel Pantaleo or any others had wilfully violated his rights.
“Even if we could prove that Officer Pantaleo’s hold of Mr Garner constituted unreasonable force, we would still have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Pantaleo acted wilfully in violation of the law,” he said.
Mr Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said she was shattered by the decision.
Appearing with activist Reverend Al Sharpton, she said: “We are here with heavy hearts, because the DOJ has failed us.
“Five years ago, my son said ‘I can’t breathe’ 11 times. Today, we can’t breathe.”
There were competing views on whether to press charges – with US attorney-general William Barr having the final say.
Civil rights prosecutors from the justice department in Washington had recommended charges, but the US attorney’s office for New York’s eastern district disagreed.
Mr Barr made the ultimate decision after watching the video himself and getting several briefings, according to a justice department official who spoke anonymously to AP.
A police union said the case was an “undeniable tragedy” but that Officer Pantaleo was not to blame.
“Scapegoating a good and honourable officer, who was doing his job in the manner he was taught, will not heal the wounds this case has caused for our entire city,” said Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association.
The long-running federal civil rights investigation was launched after a grand jury refused to indict the officer in December 2014.
Officer Pantaleo’s police disciplinary trial ended last month and heard evidence from a police trainer that the technique he used met the definition for a chokehold – something banned in the 1990s.
Pantaleo insisted he had used a legal takedown called the “seatbelt”, but medical experts said it had contributed to Mr Garner’s death.
The outcome of the disciplinary hearing can take up to three months to be announced.
Campaigners said the decision not to press charges was upsetting but not unexpected.
The head of New York’s Black Lives Matter chapter, Hawk Newsome, said: “It’s America, man. As a black man in America I have no expectation that we will receive justice in court without radical change in this country.”
Mr Newsome said he was planning a rally on Tuesday in New York’s Harlem area and a nationwide civil disobedience campaign.