Federal civil rights prosecutors have recommended charging a white New York City police officer for putting Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, in a fatal choke hold during a 2014 arrest, The New York Times reported on Friday, citing unnamed officials.
But senior officials in the U.S. Justice Department have reservations about accepting the recommendation and indicting the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, because the case might not be winnable, the Times reported.
Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was stopped by police on July 17, 2014, for illegally peddling cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk. Garner argued with police and was tackled by Pantaleo, who brought Garner to the ground with an arm around his neck. Choke holds have long been banned in the NYPD.
“I can’t breathe!” Garner repeatedly said in widely seen cellphone video of the arrest. His dying words would become a rallying cry for protesters across the United States critical of racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, and the city agreed to pay his family $5.9 million to settle a wrongful death claim.
In December 2014, a New York City grand jury voted not to charge Pantaleo in Garner’s death, sparking further protests. Garner’s family has been critical of how much time the federal investigation by the Justice Department has taken.
Pantaleo, who remains at the department on desk duty, could not immediately be reached for comment, and the department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the Times report.