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With the first anniversary of Eric Garner's death in Staten Island at the hands of an NYPD officer approaching on Friday, Garner's family reportedly agreed to a $5.9 million settlement with New York City.
Last year on July 17, Garner, an unarmed 43-year-old black man, was in the process of being arrested on suspicion of selling untaxed loose cigarettes when Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold — a tactic that that has been prohibited in the NYPD patrol guide since 1993. Though the city medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and there was ample evidence of the incident, including video, a Staten Island grand jury decided against indicting Pantaleo.
Garner's death and those of various other unarmed black men in police custody have become emblematic of what many say is a broken, inherently racist criminal justice system.
On Monday, Garner's widow, Esaw Snipes (who is also commonly identified as Esaw Garner), accepted a settlement offered by city Comptroller Scott Stringer, according to the New York Times, which cited a lawyer representing the family.
Garner's family had said that they would reject the settlement and file a wrongful death suit against the city seeking compensation of $75 million. The New York Daily news cited sources saying the family's attorney, Jonathan Moore, had recommended that Snipes accept the city's offer and pursue an additional lawsuit against EMTs from Richmond Medical Center who allegedly failed to give Garner timely and appropriate medical treatment.
A video shot by a bystander at the scene of Garner's death shows medical responders failing to provide emergency assistance. Two paramedics and two EMTs were suspended after the incident but have since returned to work, though the EMTs reportedly do not have contact with patients.
The Garner family had until Friday to decide whether to accept the settlement offer, when a statute of limitations on Garner's death would have compelled them to file suit. By agreeing to settle, the Garner family avoids the federal court litigation process, which can be costly and take years to wrap up.
According to Stringer, the city spent $732 million in settlements and judgments in the fiscal year 2013-2014. In 2006, the family of Sean Bell, who was shot dead by plainclothes officers the day before his wedding in 2006, received $3.25 million in compensation.
Some legal experts argue that opting to settle is problematic because it rarely results in policy changes, and the details of a case or incident are swept under the rug as a result.
Pantaleo — who has twice been targeted by suits alleging racially motivated misconduct — has since been stripped of his gun and badge and relegated to desk work, where he'll remain until a federal civil rights investigation and an NYPD Internal Affairs inquiry into the incident is concluded. He has received death threats and is routinely guarded by police officers at his Staten Island home, but his lawyer told the Daily News that he can't wait to start patrolling the streets again.
"The unbelievable part is this has not soured him one bit on doing law enforcement," Pantaleo's lawyer remarked.
"He's a miserable bastard," said a neighbor.
This story has been updated since it was originally published to include new details about Garner's family accepting New York City's settlement offer.