Eric Garner: grand jury declines to indict NYPD officer over chokehold death, lawyer says


More than four months after Eric Garner, an unarmed father of six, died in an illegal chokehold during an arrest by a New York police officer, a special grand jury has declined to bring charges against the officers involved.

He was being arrested under suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes, and chokeholds were made illegal in New York more than 20 years ago.

His death was videotaped by a bystander.

A video shot by a bystander shows Garner resisting arrest as a plainclothes officer attempts to to handcuff him. Backing away from the officer, Garner tells him: “This stops today,” which has become a rallying cry for protesters in New York.

A struggle ensues. Eight-year NYPD veteran Daniel Pantaleo responds by putting his arm around Garner’s neck in a chokehold – banned under police policy – and wrestling the asthmatic man to the ground with the aid of several officers. Garner gasps “I can’t breathe” until his 350lb body goes limp. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.


Even with chokeholds being illegal, even with videotape evidence and even with the victim saying “I can’t breathe” still no incitement. I wish I were surprised.


I am not as sure as some how I feel about this. Autopsy showed that he died of heart attack, not choking. It also looked to me like he was in a seat-belt hold rather than a choke hold. I was not there and I certainly was not on the grand jury. I just don’t know what to make of it. One thing I do know, we need to teach people that when they are under arrest, whether they think it is warranted or not, they should not fight it. That can all be worked out later.


I had forgotten about this case. I think it was overshadowed by the Michael Brown case. I agree with you. And the best advice is to stay on the right side of the law. If you are doing something illegal and the police have stopped you. It is best to be as cooperative as you can.


Mary, besides teaching people who are being arrested to cooperate with the police, do you think we need to teach police officers anything?

Eric Garner was asthmatic as well as suffering from a heart condition and being obese. I would think that even if his death was the result of a heart attack, that it may have been brought on by the choke-hold (or seat-belt hold). Wouldn’t that banned (but not illegal according to CNN?) police response rise to the level of probable cause of homicide, as it was labeled by the coroner’s report, to be determined more fully with medical testimony and so on in a court trial?


It wasn’t a chokehold. The Gracies break it down:


Exactly, it wasn’t a choke hold. Although, it was completely ridiculous that he died for selling loose cigarettes. Another situation where if the person had just cooperated this could have been avoided. But then when NY wants to sin tax, nanny state people into paying 15 dollars a pack you create this type of market.


So once again its the fault of the person who is dead?
The lack of respect for human life in our society, and on this forum is incredibly sad.


He doesn’t deserve to have died, but he wasn’t completely blameless in creating the situation in which he perished, either.


I think that analysis is a little uncharitable, and a bit simplistic. This guys death was an absolute tragedy. If someone resists arrest, what is it you think the officers should do? It is absolutely true that resisting arrest can lead to a response. In the case of this man, back-up was called and they took him down. That is what police have to do, when someone resists arrest. So, in that respect, the person who resisted arrest is responsible for being taken down.

Did the officers act appropriately, as far as the entire situation? I think there is a good argument that they didn’t. In fact, the Police Commissioner instituted a new training regime after this incident:

After Garner’s death, Bratton announced he had ordered “a top-to-bottom review” of all NYPD training and pledged to retrain all uniformed officers, especially in the use of force.

Bratton said Monday the training will include how to talk to the public, how to de-escalate tense situations and how to use force if necessary.

“The verbal and physical tactics needed to assess a situation are perishable skills,” he said. “We can’t reasonably expect an officer to maintain skills on the basis of training they receive as recruits without regular refreshers.”

He also said the new training will consist of a three-day course that will emphasize two core priorities.

“First, how to talk to an initially uncooperative person with the goal of avoiding a physical confrontation and, second, how to physically retrain a suspect who continues to resist arrest without harm to that individual or the officer,” Bratton said.

Does that mean that the officer(s) should be indicted? Not necessarily. Having someone tragically die because of their health condition, while you are doing your job is not necessarily a prosecutable offense. In this case, that is what the Grand Jury found.


Department of Justice to investigate NYPD chokehold death of Eric Garner after grand jury declines to indict police officer


Correct. No one is saying he deserved to die. He was a father of 6 kids who no longer have a father. His wife is now a widow. He was obviously trying to earn money for his family. It does sound like there is a black market in new york city because of the high taxes. It made for easy money, but was not legal. If there were more jobs available maybe he wouldn’t have had to resort to that.


So what’s your solution when people do not comply with police officers lawful commission of their sworn duty? Just let them walk away? We are a society of laws. One of those laws is that you are required to comply with policy officers if they are arresting you. Failure to do so is against the law and called resisting arrest and it also forces police to use force that would not be necessary otherwise. Why don’t people just comply with police?

Two things would have avoided the whole encounter. Don’t break the law in the first place, and if you do, comply with police when they attempt to place you under arrest. It’s that simple.


I don’t think it’s that simple. Based on the video, after the police officers, for more than one were involved, had Garner down on the ground and he was saying eleven times that he could not breathe, they kept him in the choke-hold. They paid no attention to his cries for help. His death was reported to be the result of both compression to his chest, which may have triggered an asthmatic or a heart attack, and compression of his back. This was a case of excessive force which resulted in Garner’s death. There was ample probable cause for the case against the police officer(s) to go to trial.


I have to agree with you. If a death is caused by the police we seem to give them a pass. There were 5 policeman around him, and they had to choke him. Then they let him die. I guess this is the same crowd that believes in capital punishment when 100 people on death row have been found innocence by DNA testing.

There is a man on death watch in Texas who is mentally ill, I sure they will kill him also. Murder by police saves the cost of a trial.


I have watched the video 4 or 5 times and eric garner was very combative. It took 4 officers to get him on the ground. I did see the officer that had his arm around eric’s neck. It didn’t seem like he was using excess force. There was a big officer pressing down on his head which I found questionable. He was a big man. Not as big as Michael Brown but he was combative and resisting the officer who was pretty small.


This is the part I found disturbing. I get the need to restrain someone who is resisting arrest. But, his cries for help should not have been ignored. He hadn’t been violent, just resistant, and he wasn’t armed. There is no reason to assume he would become violent if you heed his cries that he couldn’t breathe. Obviously, they had no way of knowing that he was asthmatic, but with 5 guys (if I recall correctly), they could have lightened up once he was saying he couldn’t breathe.


I will have to watch it again. I did see resistance, but I wouldn’t say “combative.” Did he swing at any of them? Did he grab any of them?

EDIT: Watched it again… He said “don’t touch me” and tried to back away, but I didn’t see anything I would consider “combative” (i.e. hitting, grabbing, etc.).


Really, I heard that, it’s gut-wrenching, the poor man.


He was combative verbally and they stood there and listened-maybe waiting for more officers to arrive. However, the situation began to escalate. Maybe police officers need to have more training in helping someone they are questioning to calm down so the situation doesn’t escalate. Eric Garner was not happy the police showed up and was angry. Was this the case where the medical examiner declared his death a homicide?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit