14 Jul 2015

NYC pays out $5.9m over chokehold death

1:45 pm on 14 July 2015

New York City has reached a settlement with the family of Eric Garner, who was killed after being put in a police chokehold last July.

The city has agreed to pay $5.9 million to resolve the claim over his death.

Esaw Garner, wife of Eric Garner, speaks during a national protest march.

Esaw Garner, wife of Eric Garner, speaks during a national protest march. Photo: AFP

Mr Garner's death, along with the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer, sparked protests around the country.

A grand jury decided against charging the officer who placed Garner in the chokehold, which is a banned manoeuvre under New York police policy.

The arrest was captured on video and Garner's words "I can't breathe" became a slogan for protesters nationwide.

Garner's death was one of a number of controversial cases in the US where unarmed black people have been killed by white police officers.

Family members had begun steps to file a lawsuit against New York, initially seeking $75m.

Police officers stopped Garner on 17 July 2014 outside a store on Staten Island for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

After Garner argued with police and refused to be handcuffed, officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in a neck hold. Garner, who had asthma, was wrestled to the ground and restrained by force. He died later at a local hospital.

"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,'" New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said on Monday.

New York City did not admit to any liability. Mr Stringer has spearheaded efforts to settle civil rights case quickly, saying it saves the city money on legal fees.

The city's medical examiner's office found that Garner's death was a homicide and was caused by "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police".

A grand jury declined last December to charge the arresting officers, setting off weeks of protests. A federal investigation into the case continues.

Garner's family plans to lead a rally pushing for federal charges against the officers on Saturday outside the Brooklyn offices of the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

The Garner family and the Reverend Al Sharpton also plan to hold a news conference about the case on Tuesday.

"This is not about people getting money," Mr Sharpton told the New York Times. "This is about justice - we've got to restructure our police departments - and how we deal with policing nationwide."

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