The Justice Department will not bring federal charges against any police officers involved in the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man whose murder in New York in 2014 continued the rallying cries of Black Lives Matters groups nationwide.
What We Know:
- Garner initially drew the attention of police for selling loose cigarettes and was ultimately wrestled to the ground by officers in an encounter that was caught on video. His gasps of “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry for those advocating for change in how police treat minorities.
- Prosecutors, including Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, plan to deliver the news to Garner’s family in a meeting Tuesday morning. The development was first reported by the New York Times.
- The Justice Department removed New York FBI agents from the team of investigators, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch authorized the department to move forward, after President Trump’s appointed Justice Department leaders came in, the process continued to stall.
- Bringing substantive federal civil rights charges against police officers for on-the-job incidents is often difficult. Prosecutors must present evidence that speaks to an officer’s intent, and it is not enough for them merely to show that an officer acted negligently or recklessly. A Staten Island grand jury also declined to bring charges but federal prosecutors could still pursue the case independently. Internal records show the FBI’s initial skepticism, which could potentially complicate a future trial.
- The federal investigation focused on NYPD Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was among those taking Garner to the ground. He was put on desk duty and this summer went through an internal administrative process to determine what discipline he should face. Commissioner James P. O’Neill is expected to make a decision on his future with the police department soon.
The city of New York reached a civil settlement with Garner’s family in 2015 for $5.9 million.
This story will be updated here.