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Eric Garner: No charges against officer in 2014 chokehold death


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Media captionFootage of the arrest sparked national outrage – Nick Bryant reports

The US Department of Justice has said it will not bring federal charges against a New York City police officer in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

Garner, a 43-year-old African American, was detained for allegedly selling loose cigarettes and died after being placed in a chokehold by the officer.

A civil rights investigation was launched in 2014 after a grand jury declined to indict on criminal charges.

Prosecutors say there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

The decision comes one day before the statute of limitations was set to expire – on the fifth anniversary of the interaction with police that led to Garner’s death.

“The evidence here does not support Officer Daniel Pantaleo or any other officer with a federal civil rights violation,” said the US attorney for eastern New York, Richard Donoghue.

“Even if we could prove that Officer Pantaleo’s hold of Mr Garner constituted unreasonable force, we would still have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Pantaleo acted wilfully in violation of the law.”

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Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, wipes away tears after speaking to the press outside the US Attorney’s office on Tuesday

In a news conference following the announcement, Garner’s family members called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to fire Mr Pantaleo, who remains on the police force. He has been suspended with pay.

Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said on Tuesday that the justice department had “failed”.

“Five years ago, my son said “I can’t breathe” 11 times. Today, we can’t breathe.”

Garner, an asthmatic, is heard on video of the encounter filmed by a bystander crying out, “I can’t breathe” as a number of officers restrained him on a street in New York.

His words became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter protesters and other police reform activists.

Officials told US media that the final decision not the bring charges was made by Attorney General William Barr.

A justice department official said that prosecutors watched the video of Garner’s confrontation with police “countless” times, but were unconvinced that Officer Pantaleo acted intentionally in Garner’s death, AP reports.



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