A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday relating to the death of Eric Garner while in police custody in July.
Garner, 43, of Staten Island, died after being put in a chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Panteleo. The Staten Island man, suspected of selling loose cigarettes, was taken to the ground using the maneuver, and a bystander captured the incident on video. Garner can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” beforehe stopped moving.
The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide by chokehold, and that Garner’s asthma and obesity contributed to his death.
Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said last month he intended to impanel a jury to review evidence and decide if criminal charges are warranted. He declined at the time to discuss potential charges, citing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings under the state’s penal law.
Garner’s death sent shockwaves through Staten Island and beyond. Rev. Al Sharpton led a march through Staten Island in August, and civilians and other civil rights activists marched peacefully to protest police brutality.
At a speech before the march, Sharpton said “if you can do it to him, then you can do it to any citizen and we are not going to be silent when that happens,” according to a Reuters report.
Garner’s death prompted an internal review at the NYPD, and earlier this month Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said all 35,000 officers will participate in retraining.
The three-day sessions are expected to start with 600 officers in Queens in November, and include lessons on using force without injuring suspects, and diffusing confrontational situations.
Bratton compared the course to firearm training, and said officers only received instruction on using force during arrests in the police academy.The training sessions are expected to cost between $25 and $30 million.
A report by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, expected to be released this week and leaked by the New York Post, says only 10 out of 1,100 chokehold complaints were proven, and only the most serious cases pursued by prosecution.