A white New York City police officer was cleared Wednesday in the chokehold death of an unarmed Black man stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes – a case that sparked outrage and drew comparisons to the deadly police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
The decision by the Staten Island grand jury not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo added to the tensions that have simmered in the city since the July 17 death of Eric Garner. In the neighborhood where Garner died, people reacted with angry disbelief and chants of “Eric Garner.”
His father, Benjamin Carr, urged calm and said the ruling made no sense.
“It’s just a license to kill a Black man,” he said, calling the justice system “not worth a damn.”
Jennie Chambers works nearby and saw Garner daily.
“Cold-blooded murder!” she said. “We saw it on TV, it’s on video. The whole world saw it. Ferguson, now us.”
In his first public comments on the death, Pantaleo said he prays for Garner’s family and hopes they accept his condolences.
“I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves,” he said in the written statement. “It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner.”
Police union officials and Pantaleo’s lawyer argued that the officer used a takedown move taught by the police department, not a banned maneuver, because Garner was resisting arrest. They said his poor health was the main reason he died.
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said the grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to bring charges. The grand jury could have considered a range of charges, from murder to a lesser offense such as reckless endangerment.
“I am actually astonished based on the evidence of the videotape, and the medical examiner, that this grand jury at this time wouldn’t indict for anything,” said a lawyer for Garner’s family, Jonathan Moore.
NAACP Deeply Disappointed Grand Jury Decided Not to Indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo
BALTIMORE, Md. – A grand jury has decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner. Medical examiners found that a banned chokehold used by Officer Daniel Pantaleo contributed to the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner. In light of this decision, the NAACP has released the following statement:
From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO:
“We are deeply disappointed in the grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo for the tragic death of Eric Garner. On July 17th, the life of Eric Garner was stolen by an officer whose first responsibility was to serve and protect. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who put Eric Garner in an illegal chokehold, remains free as the family of Eric Garner will forever mourn. While we are frustrated, we are not defeated. The grand jury’s decision does not mean a crime was not committed in Staten Island, New York, and it does not mean we are done fighting for Eric Garner. It is precisely for this reason we are completing our “Journey for Justice March: Ferguson to Jefferson City” because we must bring racial profiling and police brutality to the forefront of our national consciousness. The NAACP and our allies will not stand down until accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct are served for Garner and the countless other men and women who lost their lives to such police discrimination.”
Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference:
“We are deeply, deeply troubled by the grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo for the tragic death of Eric Garner. We will continue to press, alongside others who care about justice, to have the governor appoint a special prosecutor to re-consider this matter.
Additionally, we will ask the Justice Department to press forward with a federal civil rights indictment against the officer and to look at and investigate the policies and practices of the NYPD, in particular the use of chokeholds. We understand the anger that will flow from the failure of this City’s criminal justice system. That being said, we urge calm and we remain confident that, even while protests will take place, those protests will be within the bounds of the law and in the best American tradition. At the same time, we urge the NYPD to act appropriately in policing the protests so that there is no provocation on the part of the police to transform, by its actions, what is otherwise peaceful protest into something that no one wishes.”