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 videotaped takedown in NY in 2014 helped coin a rallying cry for those concerned about law enforcement's treatment of minorities, two people familiar with the matter said.
On July 17, 2014, Garner was stopped by NYPD officers on a street corner in Staten Island for allegedly selling loose cigarettes against the law. A NY grand jury in 2014 declined to charge Pantaleo, who has been assigned to desk duty since Garner's death. The department had postponed the move out of deference to the Justice Department inquiry, and said last summer that it planned to move ahead with its own proceedings in early September.
The department declined to charge NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo with violating Garner's civil rights, announcing the decision one day before the statute of limitations runs out.
"After an exhaustive investigation the department of justice has reached the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the police officers who arrested Eric Garner in Staten Island.acted in violation of the Federal Criminal Civil Rights Act".
"It doesn't do a lot", Garner's mother said of Pantaleo's possible firing.
The official confirmed that no NY police officer - not just Pantaleo - will face any charges.
Speaking to the Guardian during Pantaelo's administrative trial, Garner's mother Gwen Carr expressed exasperation.
"Five years ago, my son said "I can't breathe" 11 times". Today's announcement by the US Department of Justice does not affect this process.
Garner's family immediately blasted the decision clearing Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who put Garner in a prohibited chokehold, in a news conference as a betrayal.
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Garner's death led to a series of protests against police brutality and became a central narrative behind the Black Lives Matter movement. Attorney-General William Barr made the ultimate decision, the official said.
The medical examiner found a chokehold contributed to Garner's death. Those five years are up on Wednesday.
Chokeholds are banned under police policy.
In 2015, New York City officials agreed to pay Garner's family an out-of-court settlement of $5.9 million to resolve a wrongful death lawsuit.
"Reforms over the last five years have improved relations between our police and our communities", he said, adding crime was at record lows and 150,000 fewer people were arrested last year than the year before we came into office. But there is no rule requiring the NYPD to do so. Federal prosecutors were observing the proceedings. Pantaleo maintained he used a legal takedown manoeuvre called the "seat belt".
A departmental judge is due to make her recommendations to New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill, who will then ultimately decide whether to punish Pantaleo.
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.
A de Blasio spokeswoman said the police commissioner is expected to decide by August 31 whether Pantaleo will be fired.
Balsamo and Long reported from Washington.