No charges against NY police in 2014 choking death of black man

The US Justice Department will not press charges against a New York policeman involved in the controversial 2014 death of a 43-year-old black man after he was put in a chokehold, his family and officials said Tuesday.


(File photo: VCG)

Eric Garner, a father of six, was detained by New York police on July 17 that year for allegedly illegally selling cigarettes in Staten Island.

His final words captured in a bystander's video -- "I can't breathe, I can't breathe" -- after four policemen pulled him to the ground earned the case national attention. It sparked large protests amid the national "Black lives matter" campaign against police killings of unarmed African Americans.

One of the cops involved in Garner's arrest, Daniel Pantaleo, had his arm tightly around the suspect's neck, while another pressed his head to the pavement. Garner then stopped moving and was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

One day before the statute of limitations was to expire on the case, widely viewed as a test of police accountability, the Justice Department formally ended its long-stalled investigation into Garner's death with no charges filed against Pantaleo.

"The DOJ has failed us," Garner's mother Gwen Carr said.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said: "Years ago, we put our faith in the federal government to act. We won’t make that mistake again."

After an autopsy, medical examiners called Garner's death a homicide, saying he suffered "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

Even though chokeholds are outlawed by New York police, a grand jury declined to press charges against Pantaleo or others in December 2014, amid claims that Garner suffered from a heart condition and asthma.

His family then turned to the Justice Department to consider whether federal criminal or civil rights charges could be brought against one or more officers in the case.

The federal probe lingered for years before the department decided against charges Tuesday.