NYPD Officer Won't Face Federal Charges in Eric Garner’s Death

Garner famously gasped “I can’t breathe” as he died, and the phrase later became a rallying cry for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
NYPD Officer Wont Face Federal Charges In Eric Garner’s Death

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The Department of Justice isn’t going to bring charges against the New York City cop who's accused of choking and killing Eric Garner nearly five years ago to the day.

Federal prosecutors with the Eastern District of New York announced the decision in a press conference late Tuesday morning. U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to bring federal civil rights charges against the cop who allegedly placed Garner in a chokehold. In the end, Attorney General William Barr made the final call to not seek charges, according to USA Today.


“The evidence here does not support charging police officer Daniel Pantaleo — or any other officer — with a federal criminal civil rights violation,” Donoghue said Tuesday. “Admittedly, many may disagree with this decision.”

Last year, the New York City Police Department criticized just how long the Justice Department was taking in deciding on whether to charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who allegedly strangled Garner in a chokehold in 2014 for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. The 43-year-old black man famously gasped “I can’t breathe” as he died. The phrase later became a rallying cry for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

“We’re here with heavy hearts because the DOJ has failed us," Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, told USA Today. "Although we looked for better from them, five years ago my son said ‘I can’t breathe’ 11 times and today we can’t breathe because they have let us down.”

The New York City police department concluded its own disciplinary trial against Pantaleo in June, and the police department is expected to make a decision determining his future in the coming weeks. Pantaleo has been on paid desk duty for the past five years, and has even received a salary raise since Garner’s death, according to the New York Daily News.

None of the cops involved in Garner’s death have faced charges or formal discipline from their department. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges in December 2014. The federal investigation proceeded amid disagreements about the merits of the case between the New York federal prosecutors and civil rights attorneys at the D.C. Department of Justice.

New York City, meanwhile, reached a $5.9 million settlement with Garner’s family in 2015.

Cover: New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house Monday, May 13, 2019, in Staten Island, N.Y. A long-delayed disciplinary trial is set to begin Monday for Pantaleo, accused of using a banned chokehold in the July 2014 death of Eric Garner. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)