NYC reaches $5.9m settlement in chokehold death case

2015-07-14 11:58
Eric Garner. (National Action Network, AP)

Eric Garner. (National Action Network, AP)

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New York - The family of a black man who died after being placed in a white police officer's chokehold reached a $5.9m settlement with New York City on Monday, days before the anniversary of his death.

Eric Garner's family in October filed a notice of claim, the first step in filing a lawsuit against the city, asking for $75m.

Garner's death sparked demonstrations and became a flashpoint in a national debate about relations between police and minority communities.

Garner, who was 43, was stopped last July 17 outside a convenience store in the borough of Staten Island because police officers believed he was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker shows Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.

An officer, Daniel Pantaleo, placed his arm around Garner's neck to take him to the ground. Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping "I can't breathe!" 11 times before he loses consciousness. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

Reverend Al Sharpton

The city medical examiner found that the police chokehold contributed to Garner's death. But a grand jury declined to indict the officer in the death. A federal probe is on-going.

Chokeholds are banned by New York Police Department policy. Pantaleo says he used a legal takedown manoeuvre, not a chokehold.

While the city has a legal department that fields lawsuits, the comptroller's office also can settle claims. Comptroller Scott Stringer has made a point of doing that in civil rights cases, saying that resolving them quickly saves the city money on legal fees.

"Following a judicious review of the claim and facts of this case, my office was able to reach a settlement with the estate of Eric Garner that is in the best interests of all parties," Stringer said.

The city did not admit any liability.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that hopefully Garner's family "can find some peace and finality" from the settlement.

"By reaching a resolution, family and other loved ones can move forward even though we know they will never forget this tragic incident," said de Blasio, who was scheduled to speak on Tuesday at a church memorial service in Garner's honor.

Longtime civil rights attorney Jonathan Moore, the family's lawyer, said there also was a settlement with the Richmond University Medical Centre, which responded to the scene. That settlement is confidential, and there was no one available at the hospital to comment. Moore said there would be a press conference on Tuesday with the Reverend Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist, and the family.

Sharpton said the settlement to the family was deserved but didn't resolve the larger questions around policing and minorities. He said a rally planned for Saturday calling for an expedited federal investigation into Garner's death would go on as planned.

"We did not march and build a movement just to get money," he said.

The city has reached settlements in other high-profile cases involving deaths of black men at the hands of police officers. In 2004, the city agreed to pay $3m to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of Amadou Diallo, a West African immigrant who was shot by four police officers in 1999.

In 2010, the city agreed to pay $3.25m to the estate of Sean Bell, who was killed in 2006 outside a strip club while leaving his bachelor party. Police had targeted the club for an undercover operation.

In January, the city settled with the family of teenager Ramarley Graham, who was shot by a police officer in 2012, for $3.9m.

Read more on:    eric garner  |  us

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