Chants of ‘I can’t breathe!’ erupt as officer in Eric Garner case won’t face federal charges

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Federal authorities had a deadline of Wednesday — five years since Garner’s death — to decide whether to bring charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

In a cell phone video, the officer appeared to have Garner in a chokehold shortly before Garner died. Pantaleo
denies that he used a chokehold.

But US Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said on Tuesday that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Pantaleo acted “willfully” in violation of the federal criminal civil rights act.

“There is nothing in the video to suggest that Officer Pantaleo intended or attempted to place Mr. Garner in a chokehold,” Donoghue said.

The decision stemmed from concerns that prosecutors could not successfully prove the officer acted willfully, a senior Justice Department official said.

“While willfulness may be inferred from blatantly wrongful conduct, such as a gratuitous kick to the head, an officer’s mistake, fear, misperception, or even poor judgment does not constitute willful conduct under federal criminal civil rights law,” Donoghue said.

Federal investigators have been examining the circumstances of Garner’s death since 2014, after a grand jury in New York
declined to indict the Staten Island officer. The city of New York settled with Garner’s estate for
$5.9 million in 2015.

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