New York Braces for Grand Jury Decision of Its Own

December 2, 2014 Updated: December 3, 2014

NEW YORK—Just a little over a week after the explosive announcement that a white Missouri police officer would not be indicted for murder in the shooting death of a black teenager, New York City is on the verge of an eerily similar announcement of its own.

A Staten Island grand jury is set to decide as early as Wednesday, according to official sources, whether or not to indict a white police officer in the death of Eric Garner.

Garner was stopped on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes in July. Amateur video shows the black man telling the officers to leave him alone before police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, used what appeared to be a banned chokehold.

The medical examiner found that the chokehold contributed to the death.

A prosecutor is asking New Yorkers to be patient as they await a grand jury’s decision on whether to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan told reporters Tuesday that jurors have been diligently listening to evidence.

He declined to say when he expects to announce whether Officer Daniel Pantaleo (pahn-tuh-LAY’-oh) will face criminal charges in a case that’s sparked protests.

Police Commissioner William Bratton said the decision is expected this week.

On Tuesday, the NYPD was working on dispatching extra officers to Staten Island, where Garner died according to a source familiar with the situation.

Derek Wright, a former NYPD detective and 20-year veteran of the police force said he would estimate anywhere from 1,500–3,000 police will be necessary to respond.

New Yorkers protest in Manhattan on Nov. 25, 2014, the day after a grand jury decision declined to indict a police officer who fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
New Yorkers protest in Manhattan on Nov. 25, 2014, the day after a grand jury decision declined to indict a police officer who fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

“They’re preparing for the worst, they have to, especially with what happened in St. Louis,” said Wright. “A lot of people are looking for an excuse to act foolishly.”

Though he’s confident that the NYPD is sophisticated and experienced enough to handle even the largest of protests, he said it’s a touchy situation.

“If they don’t return a true bill there’s going to be rioting,” he said. “Protesting is one thing. We’re talking about looting, we’re talking about rioting.”

Wright said mobile stations and barricades would likely start to go up to protect businesses and keep protesters contained to main thoroughfares.

The NYPD has maintained a constant presence in the Ferguson-related protests in New York. Last Monday, the police barricaded a large Union Square protest with metal bars. Last Monday and Tuesday, police stood on the sides and let protesters chant, march on the streets without permits ahead of time, and block traffic on major streets, bridges, and roadways.

Al Smoot marches during a rally on Staten Island, N.Y., on Aug. 23, 2014 following the death of Eric Garner as a result of an apparent chokehold by an NYPD officer. The NYPD is preparing for potential protests ahead of a Staten Island grand jury decision whether to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
Al Smoot marches during a rally on Staten Island, N.Y., on Aug. 23, 2014 following the death of Eric Garner as a result of an apparent chokehold by an NYPD officer. The NYPD is preparing for potential protests ahead of a Staten Island grand jury decision whether to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

Last week, 10 people were arrested in Ferguson-related protests, six for disorderly conduct and four for resisting arrest.

On Monday this week, police made seven arrests when protesters blocked traffic and charged them with disorderly conduct. Protesters as young as fourteen years old shouted profanities at the police when they passed by the police station in Times Square, but officers only smiled in response.

“When it gets to a point where people are on the verge of arrest, it’s announced numerous times to give people a chance to reconsider their options,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Community Awaits Decision

On Tuesday evening, a tiny handful of protesters had already gathered, including Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr. As a mother, she said it has been “agonizing” waiting for a decision, and she ultimately wants to see “total justice and not just a slap on the wrist.”

But although she hopes to ultimately see all the police involved in her son’s death “held accountable,” she is encouraged by support from the community and hopes their response will continue to be peaceful.

 

“I appreciate that they’re standing with me. It’s very heartwarming and it’s very supportive,” said Carr. “I hope that when the decision comes down, whichever way it goes, I would not like what happened in Ferguson, but I would like a massive rally to show people that we are not going to stand for this anymore. We have to hold the police officers accountable for their actions. They can’t keep dehumanizing. It’s not fair to us.”

Also on Tuesday, Staten Island business owners said they were calm and prepared for the decision.

“We’re cautious, but if it does get rowdy, we’ll shut the gate and close the store,” said Anthony Drouillard, assistant manager at Bagel Mercato.

Drouillard said police in the area had been keeping them updated and said if there is a rally, barricades will be up in front of stores for protection.

At thrift store Everything Goes, employee Amanda Flowers said it will be business as usual, regardless of the verdict.

“We’ll be open as always,” she said noting that during a rally a couple of months ago for Garner there were no problems for their shop. “Last time we closed the store in solidarity, the cafe stayed open. It became a hub.”

Miguel Henriquez, a longtime acquaintance of Eric Garner who used to buy cigarettes from him said he hopes that if there is a rally, it will become an impetus for change.

“Everyone should live in no fear,” he said.

Epoch Times Staff Catherine Yang, Shannon Liao, and Annie Wu and The Associated Press contributed to this report.