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Justice Department won’t charge New York officer in Eric Garner’s death

16 July 2019

The US Department of Justice has said it will not bring federal charges against a New York City police officer in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

Garner initially drew the attention of police for selling loose cigarettes and was ultimately wrestled to the ground by officers in an encounter that was caught on video.

Federal prosecutors have always been considering whether to bring civil rights charges against Pantaleo in a case that has spanned the Obama and Trump administrations and four attorneys general.

The case then stalled under President Trump's Department of Justice, and officials eventually ended up believing they would lose the case if they brought charges, according to the Times. The decision comes a day before the statute of limitations was due to expire.

"Even if we could prove that Officer Pantaleo's hold of Mr Garner constituted unreasonable force, we would still have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Pantaleo acted wilfully in violation of the law".

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Pantaleo has been assigned to desk duty since Garner's death and faced a disciplinary trial in May at the New York City Police Department headquarters. "Five years ago my son said "I cant breathe" 11 times, and today I can't breathe".

In a cellphone video taken by a bystander, Garner can be heard calling out "I can't breathe" several times during the altercation. Garner's last words, "I can't breathe", were chanted by protesters across the country. Garner's death was ruled a homicide, though none of the police officers involved has been charged with a crime.

In the years since Garner's death, the New York Police Department made a series of sweeping changes on how it relates to the communities it serves, ditching a policy of putting rookie cops in higher-crime precincts in favour of a neighbourhood policing model that revolves around community officers tasked with getting to know New Yorkers. Those five years are up on Wednesday.

NYPD policy prohibits use of the chokehold technique.

A Staten Island grand jury declined to prosecute Pantaleo in 2014.

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"The Garner family has suffered too much".

Pantaleo's lawyers have argued he did not use a chokehold, but instead used an authorized "seatbelt" hold that slipped as Garner struggled, and that the officer did not cause Garner's death.

After meeting with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, members of Garner's family joined civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who decried the decision as "a moral disgrace and judicial malpractice". An administrative judge will recommend whether to sanction Pantaleo, from docking him pay to terminating him.

Pantaleo's long-awaited disciplinary trial came to an end more than a month ago, but NYPD Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Moldonado appears to still be deciding on a recommendation to give to Police Commissioner James O'Neill, who will have the final say in what discipline, if any, the Island officer should face.

In the years since the Garner death, Pantaleo has remained on the job but not in the field, and activists have decried his paycheck that included union-negotiated raises.

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Justice Department won’t charge New York officer in Eric Garner’s death