By MICHAEL BALSAMO Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors won’t bring civil rights charges against a New York City police officer in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
The decision not to bring charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo comes a day before the statute of limitations was set to expire, on the fifth anniversary of the encounter that led to Garner’s death. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
In this May 13, 2019, file photo, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house in Staten Island, N.Y. Time is running out for federal prosecutors to take action in the 2014 death of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man heard on video crying “I can’t breathe” after Pantaleo put him in an apparent chokehold. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)
Officers were attempting to arrest Garner on charges he sold loose, untaxed cigarettes outside a Staten Island convenience store. He refused to be handcuffed, and officers took him down.
Garner is heard on bystander video crying out “I can’t breathe” at least 11 times before he falls unconscious. He later died. Garner was black; Pantaleo is white. Garner’s death, along with the deaths of other black men at the hands of police, became a rally cry for police reform activists.
A state grand jury also refused to indict the officer on criminal charges.
Garner’s family and attorney were meeting with federal prosecutors at 10 a.m. Tuesday. A news conference was planned after with the Rev. Al Sharpton, and they were expected to address the outcome. Pantaleo’s attorney, Stuart London, said he was not immediately aware of the decision.
Chokeholds are banned under police policy. Pantaleo maintained he used a legal takedown maneuver called the “seatbelt.”
The medical examiner’s office said a chokehold contributed to Garner’s death.
The New York Police Department brought Pantaleo up on departmental charges earlier this year. Federal prosecutors were observing the proceedings. An administrative judge has not ruled whether he violated policy. He could face dismissal, but Police Commissioner James O’Neill has the final say.
In the years since the Garner death, Pantaleo has remained on the job but not in the field, and activists have decried his paycheck that included union-negotiated raises.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.