Justice Department officials announced Tuesday that no federal charges would be filed against suspended NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for directly causing the death of Eric Garner in 2014. Despite the fact that Officer Pantaleo was recorded on video using a banned chokehold, U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the case to be dropped.
Around 4:45pm on July 17, 2014, Officer Pantaleo and several other NYPD cops were recorded on cellphone video attempting to arrest Eric Garner for allegedly selling cigarettes on the street. As Garner argued with NYPD Officer Justin Damico, Pantaleo approached Garner from behind and attempted to grab his wrists. After Garner held his arms up in a non-threatening manner and told the officers not to touch him, Pantaleo immediately placed Garner in a chokehold even though the maneuver has been banned by the department since 1993.
Nonviolent and nonaggressive, Garner fell to the ground as multiple officers held him down. Garner continued to comply as Pantaleo released his chokehold and pushed Garner’s head against the pavement. While the officers subdued him, Garnerweakly repeated, “I can’t breathe.”
Garner lost conscious and died of cardiac arrest. In a second video posted by Taisha Allen, officers stood over Garner’s motionless, handcuffed body for several minutes while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Instead of attempting to revive him, the cops dug through Garner’s pockets and ordered everyone to stand back. At the end of the second video, paramedics arrived and transported Garner to the Richmond University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
Pantaleo was stripped of his badge and gun, while Damico was placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians who responded to the incident were suspended without pay.
According to city medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer, Garner was killed by neck compressions from the chokehold and during physical restraint by the police. She added that asthma, heart disease, and obesity had been contributing factors in the 43-year-old’s death. Garner left behind six children and two grandchildren.
On December 22, 1994, a year after the NYPD banned chokeholds, Officer Francis Livoti killed Anthony Baez with a chokehold in the Bronx. After a football accidentally hit his patrol car, Livoti arrested one of Baez’s brothers for disturbing the peace. As Baez argued with the officer, Livoti claimed Baez resisted arrest by crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against a parked car. Livoti placed Baez in a chokehold that resulted in his death.
After being acquitted for criminally negligent homicide in a state trial, Livoti was eventually convicted in federal court of depriving Baez of his civil rights. Livoti was sentenced to seven and a half years in federal prison.
Due to the fact that most police officers do not know the difference between a chokehold and a carotid restraint, they are not trained to understand that a carotid restraint can render a suspect unconscious within seconds while a chokehold has the potential to block the suspect’s windpipe and kill them. Although Pantaleo claimed that he did not know the difference when applying the chokehold to Garner, ignorance is of the law is no excuse, especially for a law enforcement officer.
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue announced that the Justice Department would not file criminal charges against Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner.
“This is an outrage, an insult to injury,” mother Gwen Carr told reporters after the announcement. “You killed my son, and you won’t get away with it. This is not an easy fight, but we kept on pushing. And make no mistake about it, we’re still going to push.”
“Five years ago, Eric Garner was choked to death,” Rev. Al Sharpton told reporters while standing with Ms. Carr. “Today the federal government choked Lady Justice, and that is why we are outraged.”
Pantaleo has remained on desk duty without a shield or a gun since Garner’s death in 2014. He continues to accrue pay and pension benefits.