United States federal prosecutors won’t bring civil rights charges against a white New York City police officer in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, US media reported on Tuesday, citing individuals familiar with the matter.
New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house in Staten Island, New York [Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP]
The decision not to bring charges against the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, comes a day before the statute of limitations was set to expire, on the fifth anniversary of the encounter that led to Garner’s death.
The sources were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.
Officers were attempting to arrest Garner on charges he sold loose, untaxed cigarettes outside a Staten Island convenience store. He refused to be handcuffed, and officers took him down.
Garner, a black man, could be heard on bystander video crying out “I can’t breathe” at least 11 times before he fell unconscious. He later died.
Garner’s death, along with the deaths of other black men at the hands of police, became a rallying cry for police reform activists.
A state grand jury also refused to indict the officer on criminal charges.
Garner’s family and lawyer were meeting with federal prosecutors on Tuesday morning. A news conference was planned after that with the Reverend Al Sharpton, and they were expected to address the outcome. Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, told the Associated Press news agency he was not immediately aware of the decision.
Chokeholds are banned under police policy. Pantaleo maintained he used a legal takedown manoeuvre called the “seatbelt”.
The medical examiner’s office said a chokehold contributed to Garner’s death.
The New York Police Department brought Pantaleo up on departmental charges earlier this year. Federal prosecutors were observing the proceedings. An administrative judge has not ruled whether he violated policy. He could face dismissal, but Police Commissioner James O’Neill has the final say.
In the years since Garner’s death, Pantaleo has remained on the job but not in the field, and activists have decried his paycheques that included union-negotiated raises.