UPDATE: No Indictment for NYPD Officer in the Death of Eric Garner – Officials Respond

December 3, 2014 Updated: December 3, 2014

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Wednesday, December 3, it was learned that Daniel Pantaleo (pahn-tuh-LAY’-oh) would not be indicted for the chokehold death of Eric Garner who was stopped on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes. The chokehold is a tactic banned by NYPD, the medical examiner of Eric Garner found that the chokehold contributed to the death.

This decision is sure to inflame an already sensitive public that is still protesting the failure to indict Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Shortly after the news of No True Bill was reported on by various media, protesters could be seen gathering at the scene where Eric Garner died in Staten Island. 

“NYPD is absolutely prepared, the city of New York is prepared for any eventuality,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Derek Wright, a former NYPD detective and 20-year veteran of the police force estimates anywhere from 1,500–3,000 police will be necessary to respond. “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. If they don’t return a true bill there’s going to be rioting. Protesting is one thing. We’re talking about looting, we’re talking about rioting.”

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo Apologizes

“I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”

District Attorney Daniel Donovan Responds:

“I first want to express my condolences to Eric Garner’s family for their loss, ando acknowledge the heartache of his mother, his wife, his children, as well as his other family members, loved ones, and friends, who have consistently carried themselves with grace during the past four months.

“A Richmond County grand jury has completed its investigation into the tragic death of Eric Garner on July 17, 2014, after being taken into police custody for an alleged sale of untaxed cigarettes in the Tompkinsville area of Staten Island, New York. After deliberation on the evidence presented in this matter, the grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment.

‘Upon Eric Garner’s death, investigations were immediately commenced, and independently conducted, by the Office of the New York City Chief Medical Examiner, the Internal Affairs Bureau of the New York Police Department, and the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office.

“Although the Internal Affairs Bureau had immediately responded to the scene and conducted its own investigation, I directed all of the Detective Investigators of my Office, along with other investigative personnel, all of whom who do not work for the New York Police Department, to initiate an independent investigation, in cooperation with eight Assistant District Attorneys of my Office assigned to the case.

“That investigation spanned four months, and focused on locating civilian eyewitnesses with information and evidence to offer, speaking to those who provided medical treatment, whether on the scene or at the hospital, and consulting expert witnesses in the area of forensic pathology, policies, procedures, and training of police officers, as well as emergency medical technicians. Over 38 interviews were conducted, yielding 22 civilian witnesses who reported to have seen some part of the interaction between Eric Garner and members of the NYPD.

“On August 19, 2014, I announced that evidence regarding the circumstances of Eric Garner’s death would be presented to a Richmond County Grand Jury. At that time, I assured the public that I was committed to a fair, thorough, and responsible investigation into Mr. Garner’s death, and that I would go wherever the evidence took me, without fear or favor.

“Clearly, this matter was of special concern in that an unarmed citizen of our County had died in police custody. For that reason, a dedicated grand jury was empanelled exclusively to hear this case, committed to serving in that capacity for the months the investigation would entail. All 23 members of this community who comprised the Grand Jury in this matter dutifully fulfilled that commitment by attending each and every one of the sessions that began on September 29, 2014, and concluded on December 3, 2014. I would like to thank them for their time, effort, and commitment to this investigation, and for the careful manner in which they discharged their solemn duty as grand jurors.

“As this grand jury was dedicated to hearing only evidence regarding the circumstances surrounding Eric Garner’s death, it was afforded the opportunity to singularly focus on the evidence in this case, and this case only, and to hear from all witnesses with any material evidence to offer, as well as expert witnesses, and to consider documentary and photographic evidence, in order to ensure that a thorough, just and fair investigation was accomplished. It has now completed its investigation into The Matter of the Investigation into the Death of Eric Garner .

“Regarding comments that I can or cannot make, unlike other jurisdictions that have statutes that permit a district attorney to disclose specific details regarding what took place during a grand jury proceeding, New York law does not permit a district attorney to engage in such disclosure. Rather, only upon a showing of a compelling and particularized need for access can disclosure of grand jury information, limited as it may be, be made in a public forum.

“After the grand jury reached its decision this afternoon, I applied for a court order pursuant to CPL § 190.25(4)(a) seeking authorization to publicly release specific information in connection with this grand jury investigation. That application is under consideration by the court, and I am therefore constrained by New York law to reveal nothing further regarding these proceedings.” 

Mayor Bill De Blasio’s Statement:

“This is a deeply emotional day – for the Garner Family, and all New Yorkers. His death was a terrible tragedy that no family should have to endure. This is a subject that is never far from my family’s minds – or our hearts. And Eric Garner’s death put a spotlight on police-community relations and civil rights – some of most critical issues our nation faces today.

“Today’s outcome is one that many in our city did not want. Yet New York City owns a proud and powerful tradition of expressing ourselves through non-violent protest. We trust that those unhappy with today’s grand jury decision will make their views known in the same peaceful, constructive way. We all agree that demonstrations and free speech are valuable contributions to debate, and that violence and disorder are not only wrong – but hurt the critically important goals we are trying to achieve together.

“These goals – of bringing police and community closer together and changing the culture of law enforcement — are why we have introduced so many reforms this year. It starts at the top with Commissioner Bratton – a strong, proven change agent. We have dramatically reduced the overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk. We have initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the entire NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community. We have changed our marijuana policy to reduce low-level arrests, and we have launched a new pilot program for body cameras for officers to improve transparency and accountability.

“These are the long term reforms we are making to ensure we don’t endure tragedies like this one again in the future. But we also know that this chapter is not yet complete. The grand jury is but one part of the process. There will still be an NYPD internal investigation. And we know the US Attorney is continuing her investigation. Should the federal government choose to act, we stand ready to cooperate.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – one of our nation’s most profound thinkers on these issues – taught us something very simple: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The problem of police-community relations and civil rights is not just an issue for people of color – or young people – or people who get stopped by police. This is a fundamental issue for every American who cares about justice.

“All of us must work together to make this right – to work for justice – and to build the kind of city – and nation – we need to be.”