Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan has announced that a grand jury will consider charges in the death of an African American man who was placed in a chokehold by police, which resulted in his death. Eric Garner, 43, was choked to death on July 17th. On a video that caught the incident, he could be heard complaining about not being able to breath. Officer Daniel Pantaleo does not stop. Police said they were arresting the father of six on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. Pantaleo was an 8-year veteran at the time. He was stripped of his badge and gun. Another officer was placed on desk duty and two paramedics and two EMTs were suspended without pay.
“I assure the public that I am committed to conducting a fair, thorough and responsible investigation into Mr. Garner’s death, and that I will go wherever the evidence takes me, without fear or favor,” Donovan said in a statement.
Another video taken after police handcuffed Garner showed him lying on the sidewalk unresponsive. More than 3 minutes go by before medics arrive. Two minutes after that Garner is transported to a hospital. A person can be heard asking why police aren’t helping Garner and an officer responds, “because he’s breathing.” Garner died a short time later.
Donovan’s decision to take the case to the grand jury was based upon his office’s investigation and the medical examiner’s ruling on cause of death. Garner died from neck and chest compression. A march to Donovan’s office by protesters occurred Saturday. Protesters would like Donovan to file criminal charges against the officer.
Several members of New York’s congressional delegation have called for the Justice Department to take over the investigation given the conflict of interest. Many have questioned whether Donovan can adequately and fairly investigate the case given his close working relationship with law enforcement and the fact that as a politician, a large part of his borough’s residents are police officers or their families.