NYPD Officer NOT Indicted for Chokehold Death of Eric Garner
'First Ferguson, now Staten Island. The Grand Jury’s failure to indict sends the clear message that Black lives don’t matter. But they do.'
Updated 3:45 PM EST:
A Staten Island jury on Wednesday failed to indict New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo over the death of Eric Garner, according to news sources. Caught on video recording, the black 43-year-old was killed after being placed in an illegal chokehold by the white NYPD officer.
According to the New York Times, "The decision was reached on Wednesday after months of testimony including from the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who used a chokehold to restrain Mr. Garner, who died after a confrontation."
"How can anyone in the community have faith in the system now?" said Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Executive Director Vincent Warren in a statement following the announcement.
"First Ferguson, now Staten Island. The Grand Jury’s failure to indict sends the clear message that Black lives don’t matter. But they do," Warren continued. "It’s bad enough that broken windows policing over something as harmless as selling untaxed cigarettes led to this tragic killing; it's even worse when the officer responsible – who was caught on tape using a prohibited choke hold, no less – is not held accountable."
"The problem isn’t one officer, though; it’s systemic," Warren added.
And Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that unless the NYPD "aggressively deals with its culture of impunity and trains officers that they must simultaneously protect both safety and individual rights, officers will continue to believe that they can act without consequence.”
Other reactions to the news came swiftly with many voices from the progressive community expressing outrage over what they say is an egregious injustice and pointing to the recent order from President Obama to expand the use of police body cameras, saying: "It is not enough."
— Van Jones (@VanJones68) December 3, 2014
— Sarah van Gelder (@sarahvangelder) December 3, 2014
— unR̶A̶D̶A̶C̶K̶ted (@JesselynRadack) December 3, 2014
Other updates and reactions are being shared online with the hashtags #ericgarner or #itstopstoday.
All eyes are on New York City as citizens, rights groups and the New York Police Department prepare for the grand jury decision on whether to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, who on July 17th killed Eric Garner after placing the unarmed father of six in a chokehold.
According to unnamed sources, the Staten Island grand jury is expected to meet and vote on the decision as early as Wednesday morning.
Regardless of the verdict, activists with the Ferguson National Response Network are organizing national protests for the day after the grand jury announcement, with the largest demonstration planned for Foley Square in lower Manhattan.
"A grand jury indictment doesn't equal justice," organizers note. "In cases where a grand jury has indicted, the majority of time the officers are found not guilty at trial."
The decision over Garner's death, at the hands of a white police officer, comes amid heightened tensions over what is seen as racially-motivated police violence. Civil rights groups say that the incident also exemplifies the problem with the NYPD's policy of targeting petty or minor infractions.
"The NYPD culture of aggressive policing, and the use of the Broken Windows program led to the killing of Eric Garner in July, and the assault of countless other New Yorkers," wrote protest organizers This Stops Today.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of the grand jury announcement, the NYPD has been preparing for widespread protests and arrests with Police Commissioner William Bratton telling Staten Island clergy officials on Monday to "expect more police" in the community.
Bratton told the press that while "people have a right to demonstrate," cops will arrest anyone who commits an "actual crime," including vandalism. "We have the ability to have a level of tolerance, breathing room if you will."
According to the autopsy report, Garner, a black man who suffered from asthma, died from compressions to his neck and chest which were exacerbated because of his breathing condition. In a video recording taken of the incident, which was widely circulated following Garner's death, he repeatedly says, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe" as he is pulled to the ground by Pantaleo.
"I’m just hoping they give us a fair decision,” Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, told the New Yorker's Jonathan Blitzer. "If you’ve seen the video, you’ve seen that my son has done nothing—nothing!—to cause this to happen to him," she said. Garner was placed in the banned chokehold after being confronted by a group of NYPD officers for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.
The grand jury is now weighing whether there is enough evidence surrounding Garner's death to bring the case to trial.
The decision will likely come less than two weeks after a St. Louis grand jury failed to indict St. Louis police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Ferguson teen Michael Brown, which sparked widespread protests and outrage over what demonstrators felt was a blatant failure of justice.
As the New York Times reports, "Legal experts and former prosecutors have said that despite the medical examiner’s ruling [Garner's] death a homicide, murder charges would be unlikely."
"Officers are generally given wide latitude to use force, though Police Department policy specifically prohibits chokeholds," the Times continues. "But a lesser homicide charge could be possible, legal experts said, including second-degree manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide."