New York City reached a $5.9 million settlement today with the family of Eric Garner, the black Staten Island man who died in policy custody last year.
“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,” Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement. “We are all familiar with the events that lead to the death of Eric Garner and the extraordinary impact his passing has had on our City and our nation.”
“It forced us to examine the state of race relations, and the relationship between our police force and the people they serve,” he added.
The sizable agreement was sought as a way to avoid a costly, drawn-out lawsuit. Last year, Garner’s relatives filed a notice of claim seeking $75 million in damages. There had been reports that Garner’s family wanted to press ahead with a lawsuit. (The deadline to file a summons and complaint against the city is one year and 90 days from the date of the incident, according to the comptroller’s office. The deadline to file a summons and complaint against the city for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the incident.)
Garner’s death last July 17 sparked nationwide protests and fueled an ongoing debate about how police interact with communities of color. Garner, 43, was illegally selling untaxed cigarettes on the North Shore of Staten Island when police approached and placed him in an apparent chokehold. Crying “I can’t breathe,” Garner died in police custody and his death was later ruled a homicide. Civil rights activists called for the officer who applied the chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo, to face criminal charges.
Garner’s dying cries, caught on cellphone video, became protest chants. When a Staten Island grand jury voted last December not to indict Mr. Pantaleo in Garner’s death, thousands of demonstrators blocked traffic on city streets over several nights. The Garner case remains one of the most high profile and controversial police-related deaths in city history.
The settlement was reached even as inquiries into Garner’s death were ongoing, including investigations by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the Civilian Complaint Review Board and state health officials, who are looking into the actions of emergency medical responders in treating Garner.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he hoped the Garner family could find some “peace and finality” with the settlement.
“No sum of money can make this family whole, but hopefully the Garner family can find some peace and finality from today’s settlement,” Mr. de Blasio said. “By reaching a resolution, family and other loved ones can move forward even though we know they will never forget this tragic incident.”
This story originally incorrectly stated that a deadline to file a complaint against the city was only days away.