No indictment in Garner case
Story by Erik Cuello
A Staten Island grand jury has voted to not file criminal charges against New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
The 43-year-old Garner was killed in July after Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold while attempting to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes.
Pantaleo was stripped of his badge and gun following Garner’s death.
An NYPD eight-year veteran, Pantaleo has been sued twice before for alleged civil rights violations.
Following the decision, elected officials and community leaders weighed in.
“Once again we are deeply disappointed by the failure of a grand jury to respect the basic rights of people of color and value their lives equally under the law,” said Hector Figueroa, president of SEIU 32BJ, in a statement.
In a separate statement, issued jointly by the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian and the Council‘s Progressive Caucuses, members of the city’s legislative body linked Garner’s death to national events.
It read, in part: “The use of excessive and lethal police force against people of color is a persistent problem nationwide and we must recommit ourselves to building a more just city and society where all people, regardless of color, are treated equally by law enforcement.“
The announcement comes just one week after a decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.
The grand jury, which first convened in August, has weighed evidence – including a video recorded by bystanders of Mr. Garner’s arrest – and heard testimony from officers and emergency responders involved.
“I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves,” said Pantaleo in a statement issued this afternoon. “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.”
He still faces possible punishment from the NPYD, including termination.
The full statements from City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the NYC Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and the Council‘s Progressive Caucus:
“This was a terribly disappointing outcome and is not reflective of the events that led to Eric Garner’s death. What makes this even more infuriating is the frequent lack of accountability, which is why I urge the U.S. Department of Justice to launch its own investigation.
The use of excessive and lethal police force against people of color is a persistent problem nationwide and we must recommit ourselves to building a more just city and society where all people, regardless of color, are treated equally by law enforcement. Locally, Commissioner Bratton must expedite the retraining of NYPD officers – the vast majority of whom serve our communities honorably and bravely – so we can ensure that incidents like the one that led to Eric Garner’s death never occur again.
During this painful time, it is imperative that New Yorkers come together rather than allow frustration and anger to boil over and divide us. The Garner family has asked that any demonstrations be peaceful and everyone should respect that call. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Eric Garner. My fellow Council Members and I remain committed to fostering healing in our communities.”
New York City Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus:
“The New York City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus stands united today to denounce the Grand Jury’s failure to hold New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo accountable for the death of Eric Garner.
The death of Eric Garner by an illegal chokehold is only one example of unwarranted practices and the use of excessive force exercised by some NYPD officers.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Garner family who now join the ranks of the families of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown who have not only tragically lost a son, husband and father, but have now been denied justice.
We are outraged that the Grand Jury failed to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. The failure to recognize that black and brown lives matter is evident throughout all five boroughs, as New York’s communities of color suffer the brutality of hyper-aggressive policing and are too often denied meaningful accountability of officers who to choose to use excessive and deadly force.
We demand accountability for officers who use excessive and deadly force in communities of color throughout our city.”
New York City Council Progressive Caucus:
“Members of the Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council are extremely disheartened by the outcome in the case of Eric Garner. The grand jury decision to no indict the officer responsible for his death is a disappointing one. Members feel that a major injustice has been committed and that the challenges regarding police and community relations is one in dire need of solutions. Council Members agree that the result in the case of Eric Garner’s death is another racial injustice stemming from systemic problems including institutionalized discrimination, hostile relations with public safety agents and failed police accountability.”