A grand jury in Staten Island voted not to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died after being put in the officer’s chokehold.
Eric Garner, 43, died July 17 while he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes.
In a video of the arrest, which has since got into the Internet, the man screams “I can’t breathe!” multiple times until his body goes limp. A medical examiner later said that he died of a chokehold, a move that is banned by the NYPD, and ruled his death a homicide.
Garner’s attorney said Wednesday that the “family is very upset and disappointed that these officers are not getting indicted for any criminal conduct.”
Pantaleo said in a statement Wednesday that he regretted Garner’s death.
“I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves,” Pantaleo said. “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.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the black man’s death is “a terrible tragedy that no family should have to endure,” and promised to work to decrease the use of excessive force among officers.
“This is a subject that is never far from my family’s minds – or our hearts,” he said. “And Eric Garner’s death put a spotlight on police-community relations and civil rights – some of most critical issues our nation faces today.”
The city rsidents took to the streets after they learned that the jury would not bring charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death the Staten Island man.
“Demonstrators gathered across the city, from the Staten Island neighborhood where Garner died to high-traffic areas in midtown Manhattan. They assembled in Times Square, Union Square and Lincoln Center,” The Huffington Post reports.
“They marched down Broadway and blocked traffic on the West Side Highway. Police scrambled to keep the crowd from disrupting the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center. Nearly three dozen demonstrators were reportedly arrested, though the protests remained largely non-violent.”
Jayson Williams, 32, the local resident, was among those who gathered at Rockefeller Center. He explained that he joined the protest as he was moved after hearing Garner’s family speak.
“[Garner’s family] wants peace, they’ll get peaceful protest,” he said. “But the NYPD should want peace too. And our justice system should want justice. If an unarmed man is killed, the person who killed him should go to trial.”
Another protester, Brianna Miller, 26, who also joined the protest near Rockefeller Center, said demonstrators would “stay out here until the justice system wakes up.”
“This is about racism and the way we’re treated, but it’s also about equal treatment for authorities who are supposed to protect us,” Miller said.
Meanwhile, the mayor encouraged protesters not to resort to violence.
“New York City owns a proud and powerful tradition of expressing ourselves through non-violent protest,” he said. “We trust that those unhappy with today’s grand jury decision will make their views known in the same peaceful, constructive way. We all agree that demonstrations and free speech are valuable contributions to debate, and that violence and disorder are not only wrong – but hurt the critically important goals we are trying to achieve together.”