A Staten Island grand jury decided against the criminal indictment of an NYPD police officer for the death of Eric Garner, a black man killed after being put in a choke hold by police in July.
The 23-person jury required a majority of 12 to send Officer Daniel Pantaleo to trial for Garner’s death, which the New York Medical Examiner’s office ruled a homicide. The 43-year-old asthmatic was stopped by police for selling illegal cigarettes when the confrontation escalated.
Cell phone video captured at the scene shows Pantaleo choking Garner while a group of officers slam him into the ground. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” Garner can be heard saying, as Pantaleo’s arm remains wrapped around his neck and other officers push the man’s face into the pavement.
Pantaleo may still face civil or federal charges. According to police statutes and a statement issued by the department shortly after the decision, choke holds are “unambiguously prohibited” by the NYPD.
With the highest cigarette taxes in the country, New York City boasts a thriving black market for “loosies,” — single, untaxed cigarettes like those sold by Garner.
NYPD officers are on high alert for protests and possible violence, both in Staten Island and throughout New York City.