A grand jury in the US has cleared a white police officer in the videotaped chokehold death of an unarmed black man who had been stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, a lawyer for the victim’s family said.
The decision on Wednesday in Staten Island, New York City not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo threatened to add to the tensions that have simmered in the city since the July 17 death of Eric Garner – a case that sparked outrage and drew comparisons to the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Missouri.
As with Brown’s death in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, the Garner case sparked protests, accusations of racist policing and calls for federal prosecutors to intervene.
Jonathon Moore, an attorney for the victim’s family, said he was told of the grand jury’s decision.”I am actually astonished based on the evidence of the video tape, and the medical examiner, that this grand jury at this time wouldn’t indict for anything, is really just astonishing,” Moore said.
Garner’s daughter, Erica, told the BBC the grand jury “are not even human, [and] there is no humanity”.
“On that video you can see the most cruel horrible thing that someone could do to someone,” she added. “It’s just not right.”
The decision comes just a week after a St Louis area grand jury decided not to indict the white police officer who shot Brown, which prompted violent protests.
A second video surfaced that showed police and paramedics appearing to make no effort to revive Garner while he lay motionless on the ground.
He later died at a hospital.
The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and found that a choke hold contributed to it. A forensic pathologist hired by Garner’s family, Dr Michael Baden, agreed with those findings, saying there was hemorrhaging on Garner’s neck indicative of neck compressions.
Police union officials and Pantaleo’s lawyer have argued that the officer used a takedown move taught by the police department, not a chokehold, because he was resisting arrest and that Garner’s poor health was the main reason he died.
*BBC, Guardian and al Jazeera also contributes to this report
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