New York City grand jury to hear police choke-hold case

NEW YORK Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:09pm EDT

Esaw Garner is consoled during the funeral for her husband Eric Garner at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York July 23, 2014. Family members gathered on Wednesday evening for the funeral of Eric Garner, who died shortly after police put him in a banned chokehold as they arrested him in New York City where the death has sparked outrage and a promise to reform police training. REUTERS/James Keivom/Pool  (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW OBITUARY) - RTR3ZWG4

Esaw Garner is consoled during the funeral for her husband Eric Garner at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York July 23, 2014. Family members gathered on Wednesday evening for the funeral of Eric Garner, who died shortly after police put him in a banned chokehold as they arrested him in New York City where the death has sparked outrage and a promise to reform police training.

Credit: Reuters/James Keivom/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW OBITUARY) - RTR3ZWG4

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City prosecutor said on Tuesday he will present evidence to a grand jury next month to determine whether anyone should be criminally charged in the death of an unarmed man who police put in a choke hold while arresting him.

Daniel Donovan Jr., the district attorney in the New York borough of Staten Island, said in a statement that Eric Garner's death had been investigated "with a full appreciation that no person is above the law, nor beneath its protection."

The death of Garner, who was black, stoked outrage across the city and has become the first major test of Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign promise to mend relations between the police and black and Latino New Yorkers since taking office in January.

Donovan declined to say what criminal charges he would ask grand jurors to consider or who might be called as a witness. Grand juries, which can indict someone if the prosecutor presents sufficient evidence, operate in secrecy.

Garner, 43, was suspected of peddling loose, untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk when police arrested him last month. In bystanders' videos of his last moments, he can be seen arguing angrily with police officers before he was taken to the ground. Officers said he resisted arrest.

The city's medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide, saying the police officers killed him by compressing his neck and chest as they restrained him. His health problems, including asthma and obesity, were contributing factors, the medical examiner said.

The police department has put two of the officers on desk duty, including Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who choked Garner. Four emergency medical technicians, one of whom can be seen in a video doing little to help the dead or dying Garner beyond checking his pulse, also have been suspended.

For more than 20 years, the New York Police Department's patrol guide has barred officers from using choke holds, warning that they can be deadly.

Stephen Davis, the police department's chief spokesman, released a statement saying the department was cooperating with Donovan's investigation.

The police's internal affairs bureau also is investigating the case. No one has been arrested in connection with Garner's death.

Mayor de Blasio said in a statement he was pleased with Donovan's announcement.

"New York City deserves an investigation into the Garner case that is fair and complete," the statement said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist who has been representing Garner's family, said he and the family would meet again with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn on Thursday.

"This announcement does not impact our move for federal takeover of this case at all," Sharpton said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Frank McGurty, Bill Trott and Eric Beech)

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Comments (3)
Brenna47 wrote:
We, the public, are extremely frustrated with the police almost everywhere. We are aware there are righteous police officers and we all hope that those are the ones we encounter if necessary. The real distrust we feel is because of those officers who wrongly commit assaults and deaths on the public, and then they get away with it because the “Blue Wall” lies, manipulates the media, and whatever else it takes to not hold those police officers accountable for their wrongful actions. The police expect the public to follow all the laws, but they don’t have to, so of course we don’t trust them.

Aug 19, 2014 1:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
alanwayne wrote:
If this murder had been committed by anyone other than a cop, the prosecutor wouldn’t need to take it to a grand jury, the murderer would be arrested and charged immediately. This is so completely wrong on so many levels. The servants have become our masters. We need a second war of independence, only this time we need to fight our own government rather than England. Thomas Jefferson knew this day would come. In fact, he thought that the people would have to revolt against the government far more often to prevent tyranny.

Aug 19, 2014 4:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Randy549 wrote:
They are likely to find that the choke hold was unintentional, the result of the officer having to tackle Mr. Garner from behind.

Aug 19, 2014 5:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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