NYC panel nears decision on police chokehold death
NEW YORK (AP) — A panel in New York City is quietly nearing its own conclusion about a case involving the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police, amid the fallout from a grand jury’s decision in the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri.
The grand jury that began investigating the chokehold death of Eric Garner in September heard last week from what was believed to be its final witness — the New York Police Department officer seen on a widely watched amateur video showing him wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck. Before the end of the year, authorities are expected to announce whether the officer will face criminal charges in a case that sparked outrage and grabbed headlines before it was overshadowed by the killing of the unarmed Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.
New York City authorities say they’re already taking steps to avoid a repeat of the violent protests that broke out in Ferguson this week when a grand jury decided a white police officer shouldn’t face charges in Brown’s Aug. 9 shooting.
The Garner case stems from a July 17 confrontation between Officer Daniel Pantaleo and other NYPD officers who stopped him on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The video shot by an onlooker shows the 43-year-old Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.
Pantaleo, who is white, responded by putting Garner in an apparent chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy.
The video — along with a medical examiner’s finding that the chokehold contributed to Garner’s death on the streets of the borough of Staten Island — should give a grand jury ample reason to indict, said Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr.
“You’d have to be blind to not see what happened,” Carr said in a telephone interview. “The wait is making me very anxious, of course. But there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Police union officials and Pantaleo’s lawyer have argued that the officer used a takedown move taught by the police department, not a chokehold, and that Garner’s poor health was the main reason he died.
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who has control over the timing of a grand jury vote and an announcement, has declined to comment.
The NYPD sent detectives to Missouri to gather intelligence on “professional agitators” who frequent protests and to share strategies for quelling violence, said Police Commissioner William Bratton. Police also have kept in touch with community leaders on Staten Island to coordinate the response to the grand jury decision.
Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.