On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was allegedly selling loose cigarettes from untaxed packs outside a store in New York City. Police had apparently told him not to do this several times, and after talking with Garner, attempted to arrest him. Garner told the officers he was not selling loose cigarettes and that he was tired of police hassling him.
Garner resisted arrest by putting his hands up, and one officer, Daniel Pantaleo, reached his arm around Garner’s neck to bring him to the ground. Pantaleo then pushed the side of Garner’s face into the ground as four other officers restrained him. Throughout the arrest, Garner, who is asthmatic, said “I can’t breathe.” He lost consciousness and police turned him on his side.
When paramedics arrived, they didn’t perform CPR because they thought he was still breathing.
Garner died about an hour later. Police said he had a heart attack in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
There was some debate into whether Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold, which is prohibited by the New York Police Department. An initial report from the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau determined the office did not use a chokehold, but New York City Medical Examiner Dr. Floriana Persechino ruled Garner’s death was a homicide (but not necessarily intentional) resulting from the chokehold, which led to an asthma attack and other health problems. An independent autopsy found hemorrhaging around Garner’s neck and the Internal Affairs eventually ruled that Pantaleo did, in fact, use a chokehold. Disciplinary charges were recommended, but none were filed.
NBC reported Tuesday that Pantaleo will not face federal charges for Garner’s death, after a five-year investigation from the U.S. Department of Justice. As the outlet noted, the decision came just one day before the five-year anniversary of Garner’s death and the statute of limitation expired.
Video of the incident showed Garner refusing to let officers handcuff him, put his hands up, and resist arrest for all of five seconds before Pantaleo puts him in a chokehold. Garner had a criminal history, having been arrested more than 30 times since 1980, including for assault, driving without a license, and false impersonation. Yet he was not acting violently toward officers on that day five years ago, and many of his arrests were for the nonviolent offense of selling loose cigarettes.
A Grand Jury decided in August 2014 not to indict Pantaleo. Four Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics who worked on Garner were suspended but later reinstated.
In July 2015, nearly a year after Garner’s death, New York City settled a lawsuit from Garner’s family for $5.9 million.
“Following a judicious review of the claim and facts of this case, my office was able to reach a settlement with the estate of Eric Garner that is in the best interests of all parties,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer in a statement.