New York Police Department officers could face charges in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said Tuesday. Donovan said his investigation found sufficient evidence to move forward with grand jury proceedings.
"With a full appreciation that no person is above the law, nor beneath its protection, I assure the public that I am committed to conducting a fair, thorough, and responsible investigation," Donovan said in a statement. "I will go wherever the evidence takes me, without fear or favor."
The grand jury will be presented information on the chokehold death in September. Donovan said he would not comment on what criminal charges would by considered, or who in the NYPD could be charged.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis said the department “will continue to cooperate with the district attorney’s investigation into this matter.”
The New York medical examiner ruled earlier this month Garner’s July 17 death was ruled a homicide caused by an officer’s use of a banned chokehold. Garner’s acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertension were cited as contributing factors. Garner, 43, of Staten Island was married and had six children, the New York Daily News reported.
The death has pitted civil rights advocates against NYPD leaders amid a growing national debate on police brutality. More recently, violent protests consumed Ferguson, Missouri, after a white police officer killed Michael Brown, a black student, last week.
A witness recorded video that shows NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo putting Garner in a chokehold as he was being arrested on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. As officers wrestled him to the ground, Garner shouted, “I can’t breathe!” six times before he went silent. He was later pronounced dead at Richmond University Medical Center.
Pantaleo was placed on desk duty and stripped of his gun and badge after the death. Police officials have denied that Garner was put in a chokehold, arguing he was appropriately restrained.
Stuart London, Pantaleo's lawyer, would not say whether his client would testify before the grand jury. "That's a decision that I weigh very carefully," London told The Associated Press.