What We Know So Far
- A grand jury in Staten Island cleared a New York Police Department officer of any charges in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July.
- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government will now investigate the case.
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the NYPD will be retrained in an effort to reduce police violence.
- At least 30 people were arrested Wednesday night as protests erupted across New York City.
- Eric Garner's parents said they were outraged over the decision, pointing to the video of the officer's actions.
Mayor, NYPD introduce plans to retrain police officers
Approximately 22,000 officers will be retrained in the upcoming months. Supervisors and police executives will also undergo the three-day training, which is expected to be done by June, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a news conference.
The first part of the training will be on the foundations of policing. The goal is have police officers pay attention to their health and well-being, said First Deputy Commissioner Ben Tucker. This training will also show officers how to reduce incidents of inappropriate force.
The second part of the training will be about smart policing techniques.
"The idea is to give officers more skills in ways to communicate and engage more effectively," Tucker said.
The police department has also enlisted help from community members to "host" new officers and teach them about the culture of the community.
The NYPD created the Partner Officer Program to assign senior officers with new officers as a way for them "to get their sea legs," Tucker said.
De Blasio said $35 million has been allocated for the training for this fiscal year.
The mayor also discussed yesterday's grand jury decision and consequent protests, saying the issue is a "personal one" for him and his family.
"People need to know that black lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives," de Blasio said. "Everyone needs to know that they'll be treated the same regardless of who they are."
He added that he hopes the new training will help improve the relationship between the community and the police department.
The New York City police union's president called Officer Daniel Pantaleo "the model of what we want a police officer to be.”
Pat Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, held a news conference Thursday to criticize Mayor Bill de Blasio and critics of the grand jury's decision.
He said Pantaleo, who applied the chokehold that killed Eric Garner, is "a mature police officer who is motivated literally by serving the community. ... He literally, literally is an Eagle Scout."
Lynch said Pantaleo only responded to the incident that led to Garner's death because "the community called and complained and said there's a problem" that people were selling loose cigarettes.
When asked if the concerns of black residents in New York City and around the nation about police abuse were valid, Lynch said, "No. I respect that emotion."
He added, "The police officer and the emergency medical services did what they are supposed to do at that time. If you are speaking, you can breathe... [Garner] died for a number of reasons... Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest."
He said the union will continue to represent the officer throughout the NYPD and federal investigations.
A Dec. 13 National March in Washington, D.C., will demand redressal of the "broken grand jury systems." —Al Sharpton
At a news conference Thursday, Sharpton, along with other civil rights leaders from the National Action Network, announced the "centralized march" to demand federal intervention to address the "broken grand jury systems on the state level" that were underscored by the indictments of the officers who killed Garner and Brown.
Sharpton said the grand jury systems lacked the capacity to deal with police-related questions of criminality and killings.
The families of Brown and Garner will join the march, Sharpton said.
The civil rights leaders also announced the convening of a major civil rights and social justice leadership summit at the beginning of 2015 to build a coalition of "willing and determined people from across the nation who are committed to forceful change and through peaceful and constructive methods." The summit will discuss topics from education to boycotts, Sharpton said.
The president of the Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents NYPD officers, will address the Garner case decision at noon today.
Check back here and at BuzzFeed News on Twitter for live updates.
Eric Garner's wife and widow appeared on CBS This Morning. "I appreciate everyone who’s out there marching for my husband…his name will be remembered,” wife Esaw Garner said.
Police expect major protests to continue, Commissioner Bratton said on Fox 5, mentioning tonight's demonstration in lower Manhattan.
Police Commissioner William Bratton said there were 83 arrests in New York City during the protests.
Here are some of today's front pages, after Wednesday's grand jury decision and nationwide protests:
Protesters stormed the Brooklyn Bridge just after midnight Thursday, performing a sit-in and effectively shutting down traffic. At least four people were arrested.
Spike Lee joined the protest in New York. "This is being seen all over the world," he said.
The famous director spoke to a CNN reporter while on the streets of New York.
An unmarked police car was burned Wednesday night in Brooklyn, though it was unclear if the incident was related to the protests.
Several reporters tweeted pictures of the burned Dodge Challenger in the New York Police Department's 77th Precinct.
New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday he has not yet made a decision about Officer Daniel Pantaleo's job.
Speaking to CNN Wednesday night, Bratton said that the case "now moves forward to an administrative reviews to see if" Pantaleo — who put Garner in a chokehold — violated department policy.
"If there's a finding of guilt, then a decision wll be made as to appropriate penalty or discipline for that," Bratton explained.
Bratton also said that the grand jury heard "a lot of evidence" that was not publicly available, though he can "certainly understand the anger of people."
As of about 10:30 p.m., there had been about 30 arrests during the New York City protests, Bratton added.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch released the following statement Tuesday regarding the federal investigation into the case:
"Since the death of Eric Garner in July, our office has monitored this case closely. At the outset, informed by prior experience and in keeping with the standard practice in these types of cases in New York, the local investigation proceeded first. As the Attorney General explained earlier tonight, because the local investigation has come to a close, the Justice Department will now move forward with its own independent inquiry to determine whether federal civil rights laws have been violated. The investigation will be conducted by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. The investigation will be fair and thorough, and it will be conducted as expeditiously as possible."
The New York Police Department arrested more people along the West Side Highway.
The Wall Street Journal reported that as many as 32 people in NYC were arrested Wednesday night.
The New York Police Department reportedly arrested several people near Rockefeller Center, around 47th Street and Sixth Avenue, after warning protesters to clear the street.
The streets were filled with protesters, so officers held up barricades to push the crowd back onto the sidewalk. The Wall Street Journal reported that as many as 16 people were arrested so far.
Esaw Garner: "As long as I have a breath in my body I will fight the fight."
During an emotional news conference Wednesday night, Eric Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, spoke of her loss and said that she does not forgive the officer who killed her husband.
"Hell no," she said when a reporter apparently asked if she accepted an apology from the officer. "The time for remorse would've been when my husband was yelling to breathe."
Esaw Garner went on to say that she is "determined to get justice for my husband."
"He should be here, celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving," she added.
Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, also spoke at the news conference and asked protesters to "do what you have to do, but do it in peace."
She also criticized the grand jury decision that cleared the officer who killed Garner.
"I don't know what video they were looking at," she said. "How can we put our trust in the justice system when they fail us like this?"
The news conference was organized and led by Al Sharpton, who called the recent string of police killings a "national crisis." He then announced a national march that he said would take place Dec. 13. The march will be led by the families of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others.
Protesters chanting "hands up, don't shoot" marched past a Saks Fifth Avenue toward downtown New York City.
A protester who identified himself as "George from the Bronx" expressed outrage at New York's Rockefeller Center, shouting to police, "Somebody need to take one of you out, take one of your children out."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces a civil rights investigation into Eric Garner's death on Wednesday.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed a federal civil rights investigation into Eric Garner's death at a news conference Wednesday.
He said the Department of Justice would carry out the "independent, thorough, fair" investigation expeditiously after a grand jury in Staten Island decided against indicting the police officer who put Garner in a chokehold.
"His death of course was tragedy," Holder said. "All lives must be valued, all lives."
The recent police-involved deaths of black men and teens in other states, including in Ferguson, Missouri, had tested the sense of trust between the public and law enforcement, he added.
"This is now a New York issue, not a Ferguson issue, alone," Holder said.
He also referenced the thousands of protesters who were taking to the streets of New York City in response the grand jury's decision, urging them to show restraint and demonstrate peacefully.
Eric Garner's family said they were baffled how the grand jury couldn't bring a charge considering there was video of the chokehold.
"I can't see how the grand jury said there was no probable cause," said Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, on MSNBC. "What video were they looking at? Were they looking at the same video the rest of the world was looking at?"
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday evening that "black lives matter," and called on protests to remain peaceful.
De Blasio's speech at a Staten Island news conference dwelt on his personal connection to the Eric Garner case. Saying that the city is "grieving, again," de Blasio then added that he has had to talk to his own son Dante about the "dangers he may face."
"Our history requires us to say that black lives matter," de Blasio added.
"This is a problem for all New Yorkers," he said. " It is a problem for all Americans."
De Blasio went on to cite a number of police policies that have changed recently, and called on protesters to remain peaceful.
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James said she and other officials are petitioning District Attorney Daniel Donovan to release the full grand jury record, as was done in Ferguson.
Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner, has been sued twice for violating civil rights, the Staten Island Advance reported.
In one instance from 2012, two men who Pantaleo arrested said the officer strip-searched them during the middle of the day on a public Staten Island street. Pantaleo and his partner allegedly handcuffed the men, Darren Collins and Tommy Rice, and "pulled down the plaintiffs' pants and underwear, and touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence."
Pantaleo arrested the men, saying he'd seen crack and heroin in their vehicle, but a lawyer for the plaintiffs said that Pantaleo had lied. The city settled the lawsuit for $30,000.
In a second lawsuit from last winter, a man sued Pantaleo for arresting him for no apparent reason. The plaintiff alleges he was arrested despite "committing no crime at that time and was not acting in a suspicious manner." The man, Rylawn Walker, additionally alleged that Pantaleo "misrepresented facts in the police reports and other documents that the plaintiff had committed offenses when in fact this was not true."
Most arrests made by Pantaleo during his career were reportedly for minor crimes in low-income neighborhoods.
"Out of 259 criminal court cases since 2007 where Pantaleo was the arresting officer, most were for misdemeanors such as marijuana possession and trespassing," WNYC reported. "There were felony charges in 24 cases."
New York Democrats in Congress also called on the federal government to investigate.
Democratic members of the New York congressional delegation renewed the call for a Justice Department investigation into Garner's death on Wednesday afternoon.
"The decision by the grand jury not to indict in the death of Eric Garner is a miscarriage of justice, it's a disgrace, it's a blow to our democracy, and it should shock the conscience of every single American that cares about justice and fair play," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
In August, six lawmakers sent a letter asking for a DOJ investigation. A Justice Department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the letter.
Some of the lawmakers also expressed doubts about the use of body cameras to deter bad behavior by police officers — an idea that's gained traction after Michael Brown's death.
"What good is a body camera?" asked Rep. Gregory Meeks. "A body camera is supposed to be utilized so you can see the facts of what took place. So in effect we had a body camera here."
Jeffries also noted that while body cameras can be "part of the solution," there is a more "deep-seated problem" that needs to be addressed.
The Obama Administration recently proposed a $263 million effort to get body cameras on more officers.
Meeks added that he hoped the district attorney would open the grand jury's files, similar to what was done in Ferguson.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it "may be" appropriate for the federal government to investigate.
Here's his full statement:
Eric Garner was a husband, father and member of the New York family.
The circumstances surrounding his death were nothing short of tragic. And while there will be people who disagree with today's grand jury decision, it is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law. At the same time, the justice system also allows for additional investigations and reviews, and it may be appropriate for the federal government to do so in this case. And if there are improvements to be made and lessons to be learned, we at the state level are ready to act to better the system.
I stand with the Garner family and urge those wishing to voice their opposition to today's ruling to do so peacefully.
My thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Garner's family and friends as they continue to grieve during this difficult time.
The federal government will investigate the Garner case, Mayor Bill de Blasio said after having a conversation with Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch on Wednesday evening.
The NYPD will also begin its own investigation.
There was sharp criticism of the NYPD in response to this tweet by the department's Chief of Community Affairs:
There's no question that this grand jury had an immensely difficult task before them, but I have full faith that their judgment was fair and reasoned and I applaud DA Donovan for overseeing this case with the utmost integrity. As we all pray for the Garner family, I hope that we can now move forward and begin to heal together as a community.
Here's more of President Obama on the decision:
Some of you may have heard there was a decision that came out today by a grand jury not to indict police officers who had interacted with an individual with Eric Garner in New York City, all of which was caught on videotape and speaks to the larger issues that we've been talking about now for the last week, the last month, the last year, and, sadly, for decades, and that is the concern on the part of too many minority communities that law enforcement is not working with them and dealing with them in a fair way.
And there's going to be, I'm sure, additional statements by law enforcement. My tradition is not to remark on cases where there may still be an investigation. But I want everybody to understand that this week, in the wake of Ferguson, we initiated a task force whose job it is to come back to me with specific recommendations about how we strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color and minority communities that feel that bias is taking place; that we are going to take specific steps to improve the training and the work with state and local governments when it comes to policing in communities of color; that we are going to be scrupulous in investigating cases where we are concerned about the impartiality and accountability that's taking place.
And as I said when I met with folks both from Ferguson and law enforcement and clergy and civil rights activists, I said this is an issue that we've been dealing with for too long and it's time for us to make more progress than we've made. And I'm not interested in talk; I'm interested in action. And I am absolutely committed as President of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everybody believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law.
So I just got off the phone with my Attorney General, Eric Holder. He will have more specific comments about the case in New York. But I want everybody to know here, as well as everybody who may be viewing my remarks here today, we are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement.
And I say that as somebody who believes that law enforcement has an incredibly difficult job; that every man or woman in uniform are putting their lives at risk to protect us; that they have the right to come home, just like we do from our jobs; that there's real crime out there that they've got to tackle day in and day out -- but that they're only going to be able to do their job effectively if everybody has confidence in the system.
And right now, unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. And in some cases, those may be misperceptions; but in some cases, that's a reality. And it is incumbent upon all of us, as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this is an American problem, and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a Native American problem. This is an American problem. When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that's a problem. And it's my job as President to help solve it.
President Obama discussed the decision before a planned speech, saying, "This is an American problem, not just a black problem."
There are protests planned around New York City and the nation on Wednesday and Thursday. One will take place in Times Square at 5 p.m.
Sen. Gillbrand called for the Justice Department to investigate the grand jury decision, saying she was "shocked."
Mayor Bill de Blasio called it a "deeply emotional day" in a statement:
"This is a deeply emotional day — for the Garner Family, and all New Yorkers. His death was a terrible tragedy that no family should have to endure. This is a subject that is never far from my family's minds — or our hearts. And Eric Garner's death put a spotlight on police-community relations and civil rights — some of most critical issues our nation faces today.
"Today's outcome is one that many in our city did not want. Yet New York City owns a proud and powerful tradition of expressing ourselves through non-violent protest. 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.
"These goals — of bringing police and community closer together and changing the culture of law enforcement — are why we have introduced so many reforms this year. It starts at the top with Commissioner Bratton — a strong, proven change agent. We have dramatically reduced the overuse and abuse of stop-and-frisk. We have initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the entire NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community. We have changed our marijuana policy to reduce low-level arrests, and we have launched a new pilot program for body cameras for officers to improve transparency and accountability.
"These are the long term reforms we are making to ensure we don't endure tragedies like this one again in the future. But we also know that this chapter is not yet complete. The grand jury is but one part of the process. There will still be an NYPD internal investigation. And we know the US Attorney is continuing her investigation. Should the federal government choose to act, we stand ready to cooperate.
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — one of our nation's most profound thinkers on these issues — taught us something very simple: 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' The problem of police-community relations and civil rights is not just an issue for people of color — or young people — or people who get stopped by police. This is a fundamental issue for every American who cares about justice.
"All of us must work together to make this right — to work for justice — and to build the kind of city — and nation — we need to be."
Eric Garner's father reacts to the grand jury's decision: "We had a damn video tape."
He told the Staten Island Advance:
"There is no justice system," Ben Garner said in Tompkinsville, near the site where his son died in police custody on July 17. "Whites can kill blacks, but not the other way around.
"Who can control the Police Department? We had a damn video tape."
Despite his outrage over the decision, Garner still urged those sharing his anger to demonstrate without violence.
"I can't control what anyone does, but I want peaceful protests," he said.
Bill de Blasio will address the grand jury's decision tonight.
His remarks will come at 4:45 p.m. at Mt. Sinai United Christian Church in Staten Island.
His two other public events — a bill signing and attending the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting — have been canceled.
Here is Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo's statement, released by his union:
I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can't protect themselves. 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.
Patrick Lynch, the president of the PBA, the police union, said:
While we are pleased with the Grand Jury's decision, there are no winners here today. There was a loss of life that both a family and a police officer will always have to live with. It is clear that the officer's intention was to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed and that he used the take down technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused. No police officer starts a shift intending to take another human being's life and we are all saddened by this tragedy.
Eric Garner's widow: "Are you serious?"
Esaw Garner spoke to the Daily News after the grand jury decided against charging the NYPD officer:
"Oh my God, are you serious?" Esaw Garner, her voice rising in shock and anger, told The Daily News. "I'm very disappointed. You can see in the video that he (the cop) was dead wrong!"
"The grand jury kept interviewing witnesses but you didn't need witnesses," the anguished widow said. "You can be a witness for yourself. Oh my God, this s--- is crazy."
Esaw Garner said she is now placing her hopes for justice with the U.S. Department of Justice.
"Well, I guess I have to go with the next step," she said.
A Staten Island grand jury has cleared New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo of any charges for applying a chokehold that killed 43-year-old Eric Garner, the family's lawyer told the Associated Press.
The case has been closely watched by federal officials and civil rights advocates after recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
Officials have been concerned that the grand jury decision could set off potentially violent protests, similar to what happened in Ferguson after a grand jury announced on Nov. 24 that it would not indict a white police officer after shooting and killing unarmed black teen Michael Brown.
Garner's family has called for calm after the decision, and many business owners near where he was killed, on Victory Boulevard and Bay Street in Staten Island, said they are not preparing for unrest.
Criticism over Garner's death, on July 17, increased significantly after a video of the confrontation was published by the New York Daily News.
Garner, who is black, was confronted by several NYPD officers for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on the street. He was unarmed and argued with the officers. When they went to arrest him, he put his hands up in a sign of surrender. Pantaleo is then seen in the video applying a chokehold, and Garner repeatedly says he "can't breathe."
Pantaleo, who is white, and other officers took Garner to the ground. Once there, Garner wasn't able to get back up. He later died at the hospital.
The NYPD banned chokeholds in 1993. Those that are still committed, according to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, usually don't result in harsh internal disciplinary actions.
Garner's death sparked outrage among his family and community. One officer and five emergency medical workers were placed on desk duty, and Pantaleo has his gun and badge removed pending the investigation of the grand jury and the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau. Police Commissioner William Bratton ordered an unprecedented retraining of the entire department on the use of force.
On Aug. 1, the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said that one of the factors that contributed to Garner's death was "compression of the neck (choke hold)." The other factors included chest compression and being laid flat on the ground. Contributing factors were obesity, asthma, and heart disease.
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union that represents uniformed NYPD officers, sharply criticized the medical examiner's report as "political."
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said a grand jury would hear evidence in the case.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, Garner's family, and other advocates have called for a federal investigation, or at least a special state prosecutor. The Justice Department has said it is "monitoring" the case. Garner's wife, along with Sharpton, have met with U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, who is now President Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general.
There have been protests since Garner's death, but none have turned violent. Sharpton held a march in July of about 5,000 people in Staten Island that was also peaceful.
After the Ferguson decision, there were arrests in the city during protests. On Thanksgiving Day, protesters tried to stop the annual parade in New York. But those demonstrations didn't turn violent.
Multiple news outlets — including the New York Times, Daily News, and New York Post — are citing anonymous sources saying a grand jury cleared an NYPD officer of charges in the fatal chokehold applied on Eric Garner.
This is a breaking news story. Please check back here or at BuzzFeed News on Twitter for updates.
Some NYPD officers will begin wearing body cameras this week.
The department is one of many around the nation that has begun wearing the devices as scrutiny of police officers has increased.
Melvin Brown, 19, was waiting for his court appearance on a summons outside the Staten Island courthouse on Wednesday. He said he knew Eric Garner from the neighborhood and that he hoped the grand jury would indict the cop who applied the fatal chokehold.
"I hope they send that cop to prison," he told BuzzFeed News. "Otherwise, it's like cops can get away with anything."
Brown said he's has two run-ins with police in his past, and says both were unjustified. Asked whether he would join protests after the grand jury's decision is announced, he answered he would.
"There's gonna be people here from all over," he said. "I just hope it doesn't turn violent."
Brown also said he was frustrated with progressive political leaders who ran on promises of ending police abuse.
"I've lost my patience with [New York City Mayor Bill] de Blasio," he said. In regard to the recent decision in Ferguson to not indict a white police officer who shot an unarmed black teen, he said, "And Obama, how can he tell the American people to just be quiet and accept what happened? It could happen to any of us. It could happen to one of his kids. It could happen to me. Obama has turned his back on me."
"The worst thing we can do is just accept it."
An eerie calm hung over Eric Garner's Staten Island neighborhood on Wednesday, as the grand jury deliberated just blocks away about whether to indict the police officer who killed him with a chokehold.
In July, police wanted to arrest Garner on suspicion he was selling loosie cigarettes. He argued back, and Officer Daniel Pantaleo applied a chokehold. In a video of the incident, Garner could be heard saying he couldn't breathe.
New York Police Department officials said they are ready if there is unrest after the decision is announced. In Ferguson, Missouri, last week, protests turned violent after a grand jury decided to not charge a white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teen Michael Brown.
Along the business strip at Victory Boulevard and Bay Street in the Tompkinsville neighborhood, where the incident occurred, there was no police presence. Not a single store had boarded up its windows, a stark difference compared with Ferguson.
Richard Rashan, who works at DeJoy's Red Top Cars, feet away from the site of the incident, said that he wasn't worried about potential protests and that he was not taking any precautions.
"People here are very peaceful," he said.
Other business owners told BuzzFeed News that they felt protected by the police.
"To be honest, I don't think it's going to be that bad," said Rodney Lee, the owner of a beauty supply shop directly in front of where Gardner died. "Last time there was a big protest the police went store by store to tell us beforehand."
On the street, however, some passersby expressed weariness.
"I hope nothing bad happens," said a man who identified himself only as John. "I've lived on this street for 15 years. Last thing I need is another problem. Nobody want the bad stuff."
Some residents were not even aware of the impending grand jury decision.
"Is there a protest? For what?" asked Samantha Sanchez, who was working the counter at a cell phone store nearby.
As the morning went on, the only disruption to everyday life in Tompkinsville seemed to be a light rain. On the corner where Garner died, just feet away from the makeshift memorial erected by his friends and family, a group of people could be seen selling loosies. They declined to be interviewed.