Prosecutor taking New York City police chokehold death to grand jury

The Associated Press
August 19, 2014 08:27 AM

FILE - In this July 23, 2014 file photo, Eric Garner's body lies in a casket during his funeral at Bethel Baptist Church in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Garner died in police custody after an officer placed him in an apparent chokehold. Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan announced Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, that an extra grand jury will be impaneled to hear evidence next month in the July 17 death of Garner. Donovan says his decision is based on his office's investigation and the medical examiner's ruling that the death was homicide. (AP Photo/New York Daily News, Julia Xanthos, Pool, File)

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A New York prosecutor said Tuesday he would ask a grand jury to consider charges in the death of a black man placed in an apparent chokehold by a white police officer.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan announced that an extra grand jury will be asked to hear evidence next month in the July 17 death of Eric Garner.

"I assure the public that I am committed to conducting a fair, thorough and responsible investigation into Mr. Garner's death, and that I will go wherever the evidence takes me, without fear or favour," Donovan said in a statement.

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, could be heard on an amateur video shouting, "I can't breathe!" as Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in an apparent chokehold. Police said the officers were arresting Garner on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

A second video, which appeared to have been shot shortly after Garner was handcuffed, showed him lying on the sidewalk, apparently unresponsive. More than three minutes in, medics arrive and one checks his pulse. Garner is lifted onto a gurney and transported to a waiting ambulance about two minutes later.

A bystander asks why no one is performing CPR and one officer responds, "because he's breathing."

Garner, who had asthma, died a short time later.

The death sparked protests while raising questions about the use of policing tactics that critics say unfairly target residents of low-income communities. A few weeks later, tensions between police and minorities were renewed in Missouri, after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old.

Donovan said his decision to take the Garner case to a grand jury was based on his office's investigation and the medical examiner's ruling that the death was a homicide caused by neck compressions from the chokehold, chest compression and Garner's prone position while being restrained.

Donovan said a court granted his request for the extra grand jury on Monday.

Pantaleo, an eight-year NYPD veteran, was stripped of his gun and badge after Garner's death, and another officer was placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians were suspended without pay.

Pantaleo's lawyer, Stuart London, said it was too early to say whether his client would testify before the grand jury.

Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton plans to lead a march to Donovan's office on Saturday. Protesters are calling for Donovan to file criminal charges or let federal prosecutors take over.

Several members of New York's congressional delegation last week echoed the call for the Justice Department to investigate. They questioned whether Donovan, a Republican, could adequately investigate the case given his close working relationship with police and the borough's large population of police officers.


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