A grand jury on Staten Island has decided to not indict a New York Police Department officer in the death of Eric Garner, who was placed in a chokehold and died of a heart attack.
Garner, who suffered from asthma, was captured on video telling arresting officers that he couldn’t breathe as Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s arm was around his neck, pushing him face-first toward the sidewalk.
The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, saying compression of the neck and chest with asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease as contributing factors killed Garner.
Officers suspected Garner, 43, was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A full video of the incident was shot by a bystander, which shows Garner arguing with police but not being physically aggressive before he was taken down. Witnesses said he caught the eye of cops when he helped break up a fight on the sidewalk.
The grand jury was given a broad slate of charges to consider ranging from reckless endangerment up to second-degree manslaughter.
Previous complaints against the 29-year-old cop in the incident include a 2012 settlement for a public strip-search that cost the city $30,000. Another lawsuit against Pantaleo alleges he arrested a man with no cause.
Garner’s 18-year-old son, Eric Snipes, told the New York Daily News on Tuesday that there would not be riots regardless of the verdict.
“It’s not going to be a Ferguson-like protest because I think everybody knows my father wasn’t a violent man and they’re going to respect his memory by remaining peaceful,” Snipes said. “It’s not going to be like it was there.”
Activists on Twitter were urging protesters to meet at Union Square this evening. Tonight is the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center in New York.
Pantaleo issued a statement saying he “became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves.”
“It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner,” the officer said. “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.”