It has been nearly three years since Eric Garner, an unarmed Black New York City man, died after police officer Daniel Pantaleo used an illegal chokehold on him on July 17, 2014. Garner’s death was etched into national memory when his final words, “I Can’t Breathe,” became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter and people of color brutalized by police officers.
Needless to say, Garner’s family has patiently waited for justice and charges to be brought against Pantaleo, who was previously disciplined by the NYPD for abusing his authority during an unnecessary stop-and-frisk incident in 2012. But where are the answers that the family needs?
The Department of Justice met with Garner’s relatives during a closed meeting Wednesday, reports the NY Daily News. Instead of offering a decision on whether to prosecute any of the officers involved in the Black father’s death, officials could only say that their investigation was still active. “We shouldn’t have to wait like this,” said Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, who added that the continuing probe was “frustrating.”
Civil rights icon Al Sharpton also attended the meeting, saying, “The bad news is we were not told that they’re going to move forward a prosecution.” Sharpton joined other civil rights activists and Garner’s family to pressure federal authorities to bring a case against Pantaleo after a state probe ended without charges made against the officer, writes the News.
Garner was stopped by Staten Island, New York police, who accused him of selling loose and untaxed cigarettes, in July 2014. Pantaleo was seen on a bystander’s cellphone video putting Garner, who refused to be handcuffed, into a chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy. Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping “I can’t breathe.” He was later pronounced dead, and a medical examiner ruled his death a homicide caused in part by the chokehold.
A Staten Island grand jury cleared the officers involved in Garner’s death of criminal wrongdoing, but federal authorities launched their own investigation, reports NBC New York. And a year after the Black father’s death, New York City settled with the family for nearly $6 million.
Despite being discouraged, Carr said, she is hopeful that an indictment will be made. “Always, no matter how dim it looks, I’m going to be confident,” Carr said, according to NBC.