DOJ Has Until Aug 31, 2018 To Announce If Criminal Charges Will Be Filed In The Death Of Eric Garner
July 17th is the four year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner. Eric Garner was 43-years old and in Staten Island selling untaxed cigarettes when he was approached by officers Justin Damico and Daniel Pantaleo. Pantaleo placed Eric in a choke hold and in spite of Eric saying “I can’t breathe, Pantaleo continued applying pressure until Eric was unconscious.
A bystander recorded the confrontation on cell phone, giving viewers an unobstructed view of the choke hold which, along with the compression of his chest by officers, was found to be a cause of Eric’s death.
In December 2014, a grand jury refused to indict Pantaleo. Like Darren Wilson who killed Mike Brown, Pantaleo was allowed to testify before the grand jury on his own behalf.
Then U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will conduct its own investigation into Eric’s death. Then United States Attorney Loretta Lynch took over the investigation until she became the United States Attorney General, replacing Eric Holder. Local FBI investigators and federal prosecutors determined that charges should not be brought in the case, and Attorney Lynch then removed the local FBI agents and federal prosecutors from the case, and assigned the investigation to agents outside of New York.
According to Pantaleo’s attorney Stuart London, Pantaleo was placed on modified desk duty and doing crime analysis statistics since Garner’s death.
On July 13, 2015, an out-of-court settlement of $5.9 million was announced between the City of New York and Eric’s family.
In January 2016, Sargent Kizzy Adonis was stripped of her gun and badge in connection with Eric’s death. Adonis was a supervising officer on the scene when police approached Eric. She was charged with a police department internal charge of failure to supervise. In May 2018, the New York Post reported that Adonis was returned to active duty.
In February 2016, two EMT’s, Stephanie Greenberg and Nicole Palmeri, returned to full duty after being suspended for their actions or lack thereof in the July 2014 death of Eric Garner. Two paramedics were also suspended without pay and placed on operational restriction. Weeks later, they were cleared to return to responding to 911 calls.
In 2017 ThinkProgress obtained and published Pantaleo’s police department disciplinary records, showing that Pantaleo had “seven disciplinary complaints and 14 individual allegations lodged against him. Four of those allegations were substantiated by an independent review board.
On December 30, 2017, Eric’s oldest daughter, 27-year old Erica Garner, died after being in a coma for several days. Erica became an activist for police reform after her father’s words of “I can’t breathe” were used as a rallying cry in the movement against police use of excessive force.
Although there have been no criminal charges filed in the case, on July 16, 2018, the New York City Police Department said it would move forward with internal disciplinary hearings for Pantaleo if the Justice Department does not announce federal civil rights charges by August 31. In a letter written by Deputy Commissioner of Legal Affairs Larry Byrne, he stated;
“The NYPD has come to the conclusion that given the extraordinary passage of time since the incident without a final decision on the U.S. DOJ’s criminal investigation, any further delay in moving ahead with our own disciplinary proceedings can no longer be justified.”
A spokesman with the Department of Justice told ABC News that the New York Police Department can move forward with its disciplinary proceedings because it has nothing to do with the Justice Department’s decision-making.
It is not clear if the purpose for the internal investigation is with intent to remove Pantaleo from the force, or only from his desk duty.
The NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board, a police oversight agency, recommended charges a year ago in the Garner case. ABC News reports that a source familiar with the matter informed them that prosecutors in Brooklyn have recommended that Pantaleo face federal charges, but senior officials in Washington remain skeptical the charges could stick.