DOJ won't charge LEO in Eric Garner death

The U.S. Justice Department will not file civil rights charges against Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in connection with the death of Eric Garner


By Sydney Kashiwagi
Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

NEW YORK — The U.S. Justice Department will not file civil rights charges against Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in connection with the death of Eric Garner.

Federal prosecutors had until Wednesday -- the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death -- to make a decision before the statute of limitations expires.

In this May 13, 2019, file photo, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house in Staten Island, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)
In this May 13, 2019, file photo, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house in Staten Island, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)

The announcement comes after the Garner family and the Rev. Al Sharpton reportedly met with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.

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.

After a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges, U.S. Justice Department moved forward with a civil rights investigation into the incident.

That investigation has been pending, and both the Garner family and Mayor Bill de Blasio have said they have not heard from the Justice Department.

On the fourth anniversary of Garner’s death, the NYPD decided to move forward with Pantaleo’s disciplinary proceedings.

De Blasio, O’Neill’s boss, has continuously avoided weighing in on an outcome of Pantaleo’s disciplinary trial and has declined to say whether he would direct the police commissioner to fire the officer if Judge Maldonado ruled against him.

Garner supporters have slammed the mayor for not pushing for Pantaleo’s disciplinary trial to move forward earlier on, something they have said proves he is “not presidential material.”

“For five long years, the United States District Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District has played politics with Mr. Garner’s killing, unnecessarily prolonging his family’s anguish,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal defense practice at The Legal Aid Society. “All eyes now fall to City Hall, where Mayor Bill de Blasio can finally deliver some measure of justice to the Garner family and those communities historically plagued by police brutality by firing NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. We hope that the mayor at long last prioritizes the people of New York over the police union and abandons the political calculation that has ruled his decision making on this matter to date. The Garner family deserves justice and answers now.”

Garner, 43, died July 17, 2014, when cops attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes in Tompkinsville.

Video taken by witness Ramsey Orta showed Pantaleo wrestle Garner to the ground while Garner could be heard repeatedly shouting "I can't breathe."

The city’s medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, determining that he died from “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.” His weight and pre-existing medical conditions -- acute and chronic bronchial asthma and hypertensive cardiovascular disease -- also contributed to his death, the medical examiner’s report stated.

©2019 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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