New York police officer in Eric Garner death will not be charged

People attend a rally against police violence on Aug 23, 2014 in the Staten Island borough of New York. (AFP pic)

NEW YORK: Federal prosecutors will not criminally charge a New York Police Department officer in the death of Eric Garner, a black man whose 2014 death played a key role in mobilising the Black Lives Matter movement, a source familiar with the decision said on Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors in the city’s Brooklyn borough have scheduled a press conference for later in the day after meeting with Garner’s family.

A spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment on the report ahead of the news briefing. A spokesman for New York’s Police Benevolent Association union declined to immediately comment on the news.

This week marks five years since New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo stopped Garner on a Staten Island Street for allegedly selling loose cigarettes and held him in a chokehold as Garner repeatedly said “I can’t breathe,” according to a cellphone video that captured Garner’s last moments.

In December 2014, a New York City grand jury voted against charging Pantaleo for killing Garner, which sparked national protests.

Medical experts have determined Garner’s death was a homicide induced by “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”

Pantaleo has been assigned to desk duty since Garner’s death and faced a disciplinary trial in May at the New York City Police Department headquarters.

Pantaleo’s lawyers have argued he did not use a chokehold, but instead used an authorised “seatbelt” hold that slipped as Garner struggled, and that the officer did not cause Garner’s death.

A federal civil rights investigation into Garner’s death is ongoing and will not be affected by the statute of limitations expiration on Wednesday.