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Police Chokehold Case Goes to Grand Jury
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Police Chokehold

Summary: A grand jury will determine if criminal charges will be filed against any of the persons involved in the death of Eric Garner. Last month, Garner died after sustaining injuries from a police officer’s chokehold.

A grand jury in New York will determine whether criminal charges will go forward against any parties involved in the death of Eric Garner next month, Reuters reports.


Garner’s death made national news and sparked outrage across the country when it was revealed the cause of death was compression of Garner’s neck and chest as he was restrained by officer Daniel Pantaleo in a chokehold. Garner, a black man, was unarmed at the time of his arrest. New York City mayor Bill De Blasio faces a challenge to uphold his campaign promise to repair relations between law enforcement and black and Latino New Yorkers. The incident has heightened racial tension in the city.

Daniel Donovan Jr. is the district attorney in the New York borough of Staten Island. Donovan states that Garner’s death had been thoroughly investigated, “with a full appreciation that no person is above the law, nor beneath its protection.”

Since the presentation of charges to grand juries is held in secret, it is not known what charges will be presented for consideration. Donovan would not reveal who would be called as witnesses to testify before the grand jury. If sufficient evidence is presented, the grand jury may choose to indict certain individuals.

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Garner was suspected of peddling loose, untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island. His arrest, captured on video, shows Garner heatedly arguing with officers before he was forced to the ground in an attempt to subdue him. The officers’ position is that Garner was resisting arrest.

Two of the officers involved, including Pantaleo, have been placed on desk duty. Four emergency medical technicians who were also present at the scene have been suspended. One emergency medical technician can be seen in the video simply checking Garner’s pulse as he died. Garner likely suffered additional complications from the chokehold due to his asthma and obesity.

The New York City Police Department’s patrol guide strictly bars police officers from using chokeholds. The guide warns that such a hold can be deadly. The bar on chokeholds has been the police department’s position for more than 20 years. Stephen Davis, chief spokesman for the New York City Police Department, stated that the department was cooperating with the investigation. Its internal affairs bureau has also launched an investigation into the death. At this time, no arrests have been made.

Donovan stated that the investigation would be “fair and complete.”

The Reverend Al Sharpton, a popular civil rights activist, has represented Garner’s family. He and the family will meet with federal prosecutors again this week. In response to Donovan’s announcement, Sharpton indicated that he and the family would still “move for federal takeover” of the case.

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