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Death of Eric Garner
TimeApprox. 4:45 p.m. (EST)
DateJuly 17, 2014 (2014-07-17)
Location202 Bay Street, Staten Island, New York
CauseCompression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police[1]
First reporterDaily News (New York)
Filmed byRamsey Orta[2]
ParticipantsDaniel Pantaleo and Justin Damico (NYPD officers)
OutcomeNo indictment of Pantaleo[3][4]
Litigation$75 million lawsuit filed by Garner's family against New York City, the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and six NYPD officers[5]

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner died in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island, New York, after a police officer put him in an apparent[6][7][8] chokehold for about 19 seconds,[2] a tactic banned by the New York City Police Department (NYPD).[9][10] Garner was initially approached by officer Justin Damico on suspicion of selling "loosies", single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps.[11] After Garner expressed to the police that he was tired of being harassed and that he was not selling cigarettes, officers made the move to arrest Garner. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, also on scene, put his arms around the much taller Garner's neck, applying an apparent chokehold shown in a video recording of the event, which has since gone viral. While lying facedown on the sidewalk surrounded by four officers, Garner is heard repeating "I can't breathe" 11 times.[2] Garner was pronounced dead approximately one hour later at the hospital.[12][13]

After the incident, city medical examiners concluded that Garner was killed by neck compression from the apparent chokehold, along with "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police". Contributing factors included bronchial asthma, heart disease, obesity, and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.[14][15][16] As a result of Garner's death, four EMTs and paramedics who responded to the scene were suspended without pay on July 21, 2014;[17] officers Damico and Pantaleo were placed on desk duty, and Pantaleo was stripped of his service gun and badge.[18]

On December 3, 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict officer Pantaleo.[19] The event stirred public protests[20] and rallies[21] with charges of police brutality and was broadcast nationally over various media networks.[22][23] Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would launch an "independent, thorough, fair, and expeditious" civil rights investigation into Garner’s death.[24]


Eric Garner

Eric Garner (September 15, 1970 – July 17, 2014) had been employed as a horticulturist at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.[24] Garner was a 350-pound (160 kg), 43-year-old, 6'3" (1.91 m) tall, African American man.[9][10] He has been described by his friends as a "neighborhood peacemaker" and as a generous, congenial person.[16] He had six children.[11] Garner had been previously arrested and was out on bail for selling untaxed cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession, and false personation. Garner had a criminal record that includes more than 30 arrests dating back to 1980 on charges such as assault, resisting arrest, grand larceny. An official said the charges include multiple incidents in which he was arrested for selling unlicensed cigarettes.[25][26][27]

Daniel Pantaleo

Daniel Pantaleo is a white[28] New York City Police Department officer who was, at the time of Garner's death, age 29 and living in Eltingville, Staten Island.[29] Pantaleo's father was a New York City Fire Department firefighter, and his uncle was a NYPD officer. He graduated from Monsignor Farrell High School and received a bachelor's degree from College of Staten Island. He joined the NYPD in 2006.[30] Pantaleo was the subject of two civil rights lawsuits in 2013 where plaintiffs accused Pantaleo of falsely arresting them and abusing them. In one of the cases, Pantaleo and other officers ordered two black men to strip naked on the street for a search and the charges against the men were dismissed.[31][32][33]


On July 17, 2014, at 4:45 p.m., Eric Garner was approached by a plainclothes police officer, Justin Damico, in front of a beauty supply store at 202 Bay Street in the Tompkinsville neighborhood in Staten Island. After telling the police officers, "Get away [garbled] for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today. Why would you...? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn't do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because everytime you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me [garbled] Selling cigarettes. I'm minding my business, officer, I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone."[34] When an attempt to take physical hold of Garner was made, he stated, "Don't touch me, please." He was then put in an apparent chokehold from behind by officer Daniel Pantaleo, and the video shows officer Pantaleo using his hands to push Garner's head down into the sidewalk. Use of the chokehold has been prohibited by New York City Police Department policy since 1993.[35][36] Once down and surrounded by four officers, Garner is heard to repeatedly state, "I can't breathe". According to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, an ambulance was immediately called to the scene and Garner was transported to Richmond University Medical Center. He went into cardiac arrest while he was in the vehicle and was pronounced dead approximately one hour later at the hospital.[37] A second video apparently taken by a bystander was later released that appears to show that Garner lay motionless and unresponsive for several minutes before an ambulance arrived.[21][38]

Garner's death was recorded by Ramsey Orta, a friend of Garner's.[2][39]


Three weeks after recording his friend's arrest on his cell phone, Ramsey Orta was arrested on weapons charges.[2] Al Sharpton made a statement that prosecuting Orta while also calling him as a witness could constitute a conflict of interest.[2]

Investigation and grand jury

On July 20, 2014, the officer who grabbed Garner by the neck, Daniel Pantaleo,[23] was put on desk duty and stripped of his service handgun and badge.[40] Officer Justin Damico was allowed to keep his badge and handgun but was placed on desk duty.[41] Four of the EMTs and paramedics who responded to Garner's respiratory distress were suspended without pay on July 21,[23] while the hospital where they worked, Richmond University Medical Center, conducted its own investigation into the incident.[42] The two paramedics have since been returned to their regular duties.

Garner's death was found by the New York City Medical Examiner's Office to be a result of compression to the neck, compression to the body, and prone positioning, along with asthma, heart disease and obesity as contributing factors.[43] There was no damage to the windpipe or neckbones.[44] On August 1, the medical examiner's spokesperson, Julie Bolcer, announced that Garner's death has been ruled a homicide.[45] As of December 3, 2014 the United States Department of Justice launched further investigation towards the death.[46]

A grand jury was convened to hear evidence prior to deliberating whether to file charges against Officer Pantaleo. On December 3, 2014, the Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo.[3][4]



Al Sharpton and Eric Garner's wife, Esaw Garner (right), at a protest in Staten Island on July 19, 2014.

Al Sharpton organized a peaceful protest in Staten Island on the afternoon of July 19, and condemned the police's use of the chokehold on Garner, saying that "there is no justification" for it.[47]

On July 29, a protest was held in Times Square, organized by WalkRunFly Productions and poet Daniel J. Watts. The protest was in the form of poetry and many Broadway entertainers participated in the event.[48] Al Sharpton originally planned to lead a protest on August 23, in which participants would drive over the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, then travel to the site of the altercation and the office of District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr.[49] This idea was scrapped in favor of Sharpton leading a peaceful march along Bay Street in Staten Island, where Garner died; police estimated that over 2,500 people participated in the march.[50][51]

After the Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo on December 3, people in New York City and San Francisco gathered in protest, demonstrating with several die-ins.[52][53] On December 5, thousands gathered in peaceful protest on the Boston Common in Boston, and then marched around the downtown area, blocking traffic, especially on I-90, in addition to staging "die-ins".[54] Protests also occurred in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Atlanta.[55] At least 300 people were arrested at the New York City protests on December 4 and 5, most of them for charges of disorderly conduct or refusal to clear the streets, but two for assault on a police officer.[56][57] On December 6, 300 protesters marched in Berkeley, California as well.[58][59]


Peter King, a U.S. Representative for New York, stated that if Eric Garner had been healthier, he would not have died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold. "If he had not had asthma, and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this." King added that there "was not a hint" that anyone used any racial epithets, and that if Garner were a "350-pound white guy, he would have been treated the same."[60]

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Garner's death a "terrible tragedy."[61] De Blasio, at a July 31 roundtable meeting in response to the death, convened with police officers and political activists, called upon mutual respect and understanding. On August 1, in a statement, the mayor urged all parties involved to create a dialogue, and find a path "to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust and create a culture where the police department and the communities they protect respect each other".[62][63] New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York State should consider appointing a special prosecutor to handle cases of alleged police brutality. He told CNN: "We have a problem. Let's acknowledge it."[64]

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Department of Justice was "closely monitoring" investigations into Garner's death.[65]

Two U.S. Presidents have expressed thoughts about Garner's death. Barack Obama addressed the grand jury's decision by making a speech, stating that Garner's death and the legal outcome of it is an "American problem."[66] Former U.S. President George W. Bush said he found the verdict "hard to understand" and "very sad" in an interview.[67]


As a result of Eric Garner's death, Police Commissioner William Bratton ordered an extensive review of the NYPD's training procedures, specifically focusing on the appropriate amount of force that can be used while detaining a suspect.[68] Patrick Lynch, leader of the police union Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, challenged the claim that a chokehold was used.[69] Police union officials and Pantaleo’s lawyer argued that Pantaleo did not use the chokehold, but instead used a NYPD-taught takedown move because Garner was resisting arrest.[70]


In an interview with CNN, Garner's daughter Erica felt that it was pride and not racism that led to the officer choking her father.[71]


A funeral was held for Garner on July 23, 2014, at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn. At the funeral, Al Sharpton gave a speech calling for harsher punitive measures to be taken against the officers responsible for putting Garner in the chokehold.[72]

See also


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "orta" defined multiple times with different content
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  5. $75 million suit over NYC chokehold death planned, Associated Press, October 7, 2014.
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  8. "Eric Garner: No charges in NY chokehold case". BBC. December 3, 2014.
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  57. [], Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2014.
  58. Violence Mars new protests in Berkeley, San Francisco Chronicle
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