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Grand Jury: No Indictment of NYPD Cop Daniel Pantaleo for Eric Garner Choke Hold Homicide

NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo chokes the life out of black market cigarette suspect Eric Garner. Garner's death was ruled a homicide.

NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo chokes the life out of black market cigarette suspect Eric Garner. Garner’s death was ruled a homicide.

A New York City grand jury has declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the July 17 choke hold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed Staten Island man detained for allegedly selling black market cigarettes.

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died after Pantaleo ignored the asthmatic’s pleas that he could not breathe due to the choke hold the officer had placed on him. NYPD banned choke holds in 1993 amid a wave of deaths across the nation.

Garner’s death, which New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called “a terrible tragedy that no family should have to experience,” was ruled a homicide by the city medical examiner’s office, which also said the victim’s acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease contributed to his death.

The homicide, which was captured on video, sparked widespread outrage in New York and beyond.

A Staten Island grand jury decided on Wednesday not to indict Pantaleo for killing Garner, sparing the officer from the prospect of criminal charges. But NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said earlier in the day that three other ongoing investigations of the incident could lead to civil or federal charges.

In order to indict Pantaleo, at least 12 of the 23 jurors—15 of whom were white—needed to agree. Wednesday’s exact vote is not yet known.

The decision to clear Pantaleo of criminal wrongdoing comes a little more than a week after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri declined to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teen Michael Brown on August 9. That decision sparked nationwide protests, some of them ongoing, a few of them violent.

Eric Snipes, Garner’s 18-year-old son, assured reporters there would be no Ferguson-style unrest in the wake of the grand jury’s decision.

“It’s not going to be a Ferguson-like protest because I think everybody knows my father wasn’t a violent man and they’re going to respect his memory by remaining peaceful,” Snipes told the New York Daily News. “It’s not going to be like it was there.”

Mayor de Blasio warned against any such mayhem.

“People have a right to protest peacefully and we will respect that right,” the mayor said. “But if we think public safety is compromised, then the police will act very assertively to address that problem.”

Commissioner Bratton said the NYPD is “planning accordingly” and that the department would give any protesters “breathing room” to vent their frustration.

“If they engage in criminal activity such as vandalism, actual crime, they’ll be arrested, quite simply,” said Bratton, according to the Daily News. “But we have the ability to have a level of tolerance. This is a department that has a lot of experience dealing with various forms of demonstrations.”

After Garner’s death, the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board prepared and released a 120-page report which concluded the NYPD’s use of choke holds is often problematic, with offending officers escaping disciplinary action in all but the most egregious incidents. The report urged better training and more discipline of “problem” officers.

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