A New York City grand jury has declined to indict a white police officer in the case of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed black man who died July 17 in a police chokehold, a lawyer involved in in the case said Wednesday.
Jonathon Moore, an attorney for the victim’s family, said he was told there would be no indictment of Officer Daniel Pantaleo. The medical examiner had ruled the death a homicide.
The decision comes nine days after a grand jury declined to indict a Ferguson, Mo., police officer in the shooting death of an 18-year-old black man, setting off waves of protests across the country.
A video of the Staten Island incident drew national attention. Garner, who had asthma, is heard shouting “I can’t breathe” at least eight times as police take him to the ground in what appears to be a chokehold, an action the New York Police Department prohibits. Garner was pronounced dead at a hospital later that night.
The viral video brought accusations of racism against the NYPD and prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to delay an overseas trip.
Four emergency workers were suspended and two police officers turned in their guns and badges as the Staten Island district attorney and a police internal affairs unit began investigations.
The grand jury was asked to decide whether Pantaleo, seen on the video placing his arm around Garner’s neck, will face charges of criminal wrongdoing. The panel was expected to vote Wednesday, NBC New York was reporting.
The Rev. Al Sharpton has met with Garner’s family, but there was no word from his National Action Network on whether protests might be planned.
A group called This Stops Now is planning protests regardless of the grand jury’s decision.
The group said in a news releasse, “Regardless of the verdict, we’ll be hitting the streets to demand #Justicefor Eric Garner and an end to broken window policing,” the practice of strong enforcement against petty offenses to battle disorder that fosters more serious crime. “A grand jury indictment doesn’t equal justice. In cases where a grand jury has indicted, the majority of time the officers are found not guilty at trial.”
The release said demonstrations will occur at 5:30 p.m. the day after the grand jury announcement if it comes Monday thorugh Thursday or at 1 p.m. Saturday if the announcement is made Friday.
Garner’s case came in a year that has seen several black people injured or killer in altercations with police, prompting civil rights organizations to call for reviews of police procedures nationwide and for police officers to wear body cameras while on duty.
After last week’s decision by a Missouri grand jury not to indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, NAACP President and CEO Cornell Brooks told CBS This Morning that police procedures across the country must change.
“We’re calling on people to push for a change in policing, a change in the way we police our communities. We’re calling for legislative reform,” Brooks said. “We’re calling for the kind of systemic, fundamental reform that can change this country and prevent future deaths. We have Michael Brown, we have Eric Garner, we have a litany and a list of young people who have lost their lives at the hands of police. This cannot be tolerated. It can’t go on, and we have to step up and do something about it.”
Last week’s Ferguson protests stopped traffic on two major New York City highways and in the Lincoln Tunnel, which carries commuters between New Jersey and Manhattan. This time, de Blasio said Tuesday, if protests interrupt traffic, people will be arrested.
“If we think public safety is compromised, the police will have to very assertively address that problem,” de Blasio said. “We need to get traffic and we need to get emergency vehicles through.”