Just over a week after a Missouri grand jury found no probable cause against a Ferguson cop who shot a teen to death, a New York grand jury found no probable cause against the NYPD cop who choked a teen to death in a video that went viral in August.
Eric Garner, 43, died after being confronted by undercover cops who accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes.
A protest is scheduled tonight at Rockerfeller Center at a time when the nation is already experiencing protests throughout the country after a grand jury failed to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old teenager.
The one difference is that the Garner case was captured on video, leaving little room for speculation as to what took place. In fact, chokeholds have been banned by the NYPD since 1993 because too many suspects died in custody.
But evidently, it was not enough to convince the grand jury there was enough probable cause to charge NYPD officer Danny Pantaleo, who was seen smiling and waving at a camera in the minutes after he killed Garner as you can see in the video below that also shows paramedics ordering Garner’s lifeless body to stand up without making any attempts to revive him.
Garner’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner’s office two weeks after the incident. The decision comes two days after President Obama announced he would seek funding to supply 50,000 body cams to police officers throughout the United States to hold them accountable.
But as we can see here, even with video evidence, it is nearly impossible to charge a cop for killing unarmed citizens.
The man who recorded the incident, Ramsey Orta, was arrested on weapons charges shortly after the video went viral in what many believe was in retaliation.
However, a grand jury wasted no time in indicting him.
According to the New York Post:
A Staten Island grand jury cleared an NYPD cop Wednesday in the chokehold death of Eric Garner during his caught-on-video arrest for peddling loose cigarettes, The Post has learned.
The panel voted a “no-bill” and dismissed all potential charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, sources said.
The blockbuster decision capped weeks of investigation by the special grand jury, which was empaneled in September specifically to review evidence in Garner’s racially charged death.
It was unclear exactly what charges prosecutors asked the grand jury to consider filing, or how the vote went.
According to the New York Times:
The grand jury, impanelled by District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan Jr. in September, has weighed evidence – including a video recorded by bystanders of Mr. Garner’s violent arrest – and heard testimony from the officers involved.
Grand juries determine whether enough evidence exists for a case to go forward to a criminal trial, either before a jury or a judge. By law, they operate in secret and hear only evidence presented by prosecutors, who also instruct the grand jurors on the law. Defense lawyers are barred from speaking. For a decision, 12 jurors who have heard all the evidence must agree.
An indictment was considered only against Officer Pantaleo, who testified last, on Nov. 21, his lawyer, Stuart London, said. The other officers received immunity, he said.
The case exposed lapses in police tactics – chokeholds are banned by the Police Department’s own guidelines – and raised questions about the aggressive policing of minor offenses in a time of historically low crime. The officers, part of a plainclothes unit, suspected Mr. Garner of selling loose cigarettes on the street near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, a complaint among local business owners.
Mr. Garner’s death hastened an effort to retrain all the department’s patrol officers and brought scrutiny on how officers who violate its rules are disciplined. Officer Pantaleo has been stripped of his gun and badge.
It was unclear whether Officer Pantaleo would return to enforcement duties. He still faces potential punishment from the Police Department, including possible termination.
Background from the New York Times before decision was announced:
Legal experts and former prosecutors have said that despite the medical examiner’s ruling the death a homicide, murder charges would be unlikely. Officers are generally given wide latitude to use force, though Police Department policy specifically prohibits chokeholds.
But a lesser homicide charge could be possible, legal experts said, including second-degree manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.
Officer Pantaleo, who is white, wrapped an arm around Mr. Garner’s neck in what the medical examiner described as a chokehold. In a video recorded by a bystander, other officers can be seen restraining Mr. Garner on the ground.
Also in the video, Mr. Garner can be heard repeatedly telling officers: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
Beyond the video, the grand jury has been hearing from other witnesses to the July 17 arrest along with evidence of events before and after the encounter.
The Police Department, already contending with protests over the Ferguson case, has been preparing for new demonstrations.
Pantaleo has been sued twice in the past, including one suit which resulted in a $30,000 settlement for two men whose rights he violated as well as another suit that is still pending.
According to the lawsuit, after getting license and registration information from both the car’s driver, Morris Wilson, and Collins, the officers ordered Collins and Rice out of the vehicle for a search.
After they were handcuffed, “Pantaleo and/or Conca pulled down the plaintiffs’ pants and underwear, and touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence,” the lawsuit alleged.
Pantaleo then took the two men to the 120th Precinct stationhouse, where Pantaleo and Torres strip-searched them again, forcing them “to remove all of their clothing, squat, cough and lift their genitals.”
Both men were criminally charged, but the cases against them were ultimately dismissed.
According to Jason Leventhal, Collins and Rice’s lawyer, Pantaleo had falsely claimed that he saw crack and heroin in plain view, on the vehicle’s back seat, allowing the officers to arrest everyone in the car. Wilson admitted the drugs were in his pocket, not in plain view, when he ultimately took a plea deal, Leventhal said.
Collins and Rice each received $15,000 settlements from the city, Leventhal said.
“One of the fundamental, most important things a police officer needs to do is to tell the truth,” Leventhal said. “He has no right to strip-search anyone in the middle of the street.”
The New York City police union and Pantaleo issued the following statements today:
PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said:
“While we are pleased with the Grand Jury’s decision, there are no winners here today. There was a loss of life that both a family and a police officer will always have to live with. It is clear that the officer’s intention was to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed and that he used the take down technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused. No police officer starts a shift intending to take another human being’s life and we are all saddened by this tragedy.”
Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo said:
“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.”
A few weeks after the incident, the police union held a press conference explaining that if you don’t comply, you will die. That video is below.
We will continue updating this post throughout the day.