After a flurry of news reports, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan officially announced that a grand jury found no reasonable cause to press charges against white NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the homicide of black borough resident Eric Garner in July.
“After deliberation on the evidence presented in this matter, the grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment,” Mr. Donovan said in a statement released to the press, after four months of presenting evidence and more than an hour of news reports that Mr. Pantaleo would face prosecution.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had already canceled his scheduled events and announced he was heading to Staten Island to meet with the Garner family and local leaders before Mr. Donovan made his announcement.
Mr. Donovan gave his sympathies to the Garner family, whom he praised for their dignified conduct in the weeks and months after Mr. Pantaleo—in an encounter infamously caught on video—wrapped his forearm around Mr. Garner’s neck and helped wrestle him to the ground in an effort to apprehend him for allegedly selling cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner. The video showed Mr. Garner, who had been arrested for the misdemeanor on a number of previous occasions, first verbally protesting Mr. Pantaleo and his police colleagues’ intention to arrest him, then repeatedly shouting “I can’t breathe” while Mr. Pantaleo was on top of him.
“I first want to express my condolences to Eric Garner’s family for their loss, and to acknowledge the heartache of his mother, his wife, his children, as well as his other family members, loved ones, and friends, who have consistently carried themselves with grace during the past four months,” Mr. Donovan said.
Mr. Donovan empaneled a jury of 23 civilians after a coroner declared the death a homicide, and said his office conducted its own investigation independent of the police department, conducting 38 interviews, and obtained the testimony of 22 civilian witnesses. New York laws forbid Mr. Donovan from fully disclosing the evidence he turned up, but he acknowledged the sensitivity of the issue.
“Clearly, this matter was of special concern in that an unarmed citizen of our County had died in police custody,” he said.
Most of New York City’s Congressional delegation–with the sole exception of Staten Island Republican Michael Grimm–argued in August that Donovan, a member of the GOP, was too close to the police to conduct an impartial investigation and demanded the United States Attorney’s office intervene.