Brooklyn, NY – The U.S. Department of Justice will not bring charges against New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner during his arrest in 2014.
Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for Brooklyn, announced the decision not to bring criminal civil rights charges against Officer Pantaleo on Tuesday, one day before the statute of limitations was due to expire, The New York Times reported.
Wednesday marks the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death.
Garner was arrested by NYPD officers on July 17, 2014, after police stopped him for selling individual, untaxed loose cigarettes on a city sidewalk.
He resisted arrest and fought with officers who struggled to take the 350-pound man into custody.
In the process of subduing Garner, video taken by witnesses showed that Officer Pantaleo had his arm around Garner's neck and pressed his face against the sidewalk.
Garner repeatedly told officers “I can’t breathe,” a phrase that became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter in the months that followed.
Officer Pantaleo later said he tried to use a “seatbelt maneuver” on Garner, and did not mean to put the much larger man into a choke hold.
Garner lost consciousness on the sidewalk, and died in the hospital an hour later from a medical emergency.
Garner's autopsy report showed no damage to any area of his neck, and it was determined that he died of a medical emergency induced by officers who were arresting him. The medical examiner declared it was a homicide.
A New York Grand Jury declined to indict on any criminal charges.
The federal inquiry has dragged on for years and split the Justice Department in half between those who want to go after the officer and those who thought the officer did nothing wrong, according to The New York Times.
Donoghue explained federal prosecutors’ decision not to charge Officer Pantaleo.
The U.S. attorney said that while Garner’s death was a tragedy, “the evidence does not support charging Police Officer Pantaleo with a federal civil rights violation.”
He said federal prosecutors could not prove that the officer “willfully used excessive force to violate Mr. Garner’s rights as required under the law,” The New York Times reported.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office met with Garner’s family and the Reverend Al Sharpton on Tuesday morning ahead of the public announcement.
Afterwards, they held a press conference kicked off with inflammatory remarks by Sharpton.
“Five years ago, Eric Garner was choked to death; today the federal government choked Lady Justice, and that is why we are outraged,” he said.
Sharpton called for Officer Pantaleo’s immediate firing and said the officer should not be given the opportunity to resign.
“There’s nothing standing in the way of that happening but people not standing up for justice…” he said. “Show you’re better than the Trump administration.”
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, vowed to keep fighting despite the fact she said the U.S. Department of Justice had let her down.
“You killed my son and you won’t get away with it!” she yelled.
Garner’s sister shrieked her displeasure into the microphone.
“I’m going to stand outside and I’m going to scream it. Pantaleo needs to be fired! He needs to be fired!” she demanded. “There is no waiting. There is no nothing. The statute of limitations is tomorrow.”
“Eric died 7/17/14. We’re at 7/16/19!” she continued. “Five years later and there’s still no justice. So no, there will be no calm. No, there will be no peace. No justice, no peace!”
Garner’s mother demanded to be notified by NYPD that Officer Pantaleo had been fired by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.