No indictment in chokehold case
NEW YORK (AP) – A grand jury cleared a white New York City police officer today in the videotaped chokehold death of an unarmed black man who had been stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, a lawyer for the victim’s family said.
The decision in Staten Island not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo threatened to add to the tensions that have simmered in the city since the July 17 death of Eric Garner – a case that sparked outrage and drew comparisons to the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.
The Garner case also sparked protests, accusations of racist policing and calls for federal prosecutors to intervene.
Jonathan Moore, an attorney for Garner’s family, said he was told of the grand jury’s decision. Two law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to comment publicly on the case, confirmed the officer was not indicted.
“I am actually astonished based on the evidence of the video tape, and the medical examiner, that this grand jury at this time wouldn’t indict for anything, is really just astonishing,” Moore said.
In anticipation of the announcement on the grand jury decision, police officials met with community leaders on Staten Island to head off a repeat of the response in Ferguson, where a grand jury decided last week not to indict the white officer who shot the black teen. Demonstrations there turned violent, resulting in more than 100 arrests and destruction of 12 commercial buildings by fire.
Unlike the Missouri protests, demonstrations in have New York remained mostly peaceful. The case prompted Police Commissioner William Bratton to order officers at the largest U.S. police department to undergo retraining on use of force.
The Staten Island District Attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to a call. There was no immediate comment from Pantaleo’s attorney nor the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a union that has strongly backed the officer.
The grand jury could have considered a range of charges, from murder to a lesser offense such as reckless endangerment.
A video shot by an onlooker and widely viewed on the Internet showed the 43-year-old Garner telling a group of police officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him.