Federal prosecutors will not charge the New York police officer implicated in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an African American man killed almost five years ago.
The decision announced by the US attorney Richard Donoghue on Tuesday was another blow to the Garner family, figureheads in the Black Lives Matter movement, who have campaigned to hold the NYPD accountable. US justice department sources said the final call on the non-indictment was made by the attorney general, William Barr.
Garner’s death, on 17 July 2014, became a focal point for national conversation on race and policing. Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe”, were chanted by protesters across the US.
On Tuesday, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said: “Five years ago my son said ‘I can’t breathe’ 11 times. Today we can’t breathe because they [the federal government] have let us down.”
The arrest was captured on cellphone video which showed Garner repeating the phrase 11 times as Officer Daniel Pantaleo pulled him to the ground in what has been described as a banned chokehold.
The incident was ruled a homicide by the investigating medical examiner but in December 2014 a grand jury in Staten Island declined to charge Pantaleo in a separate case investigated by local prosecutors.
Federal prosecutors have long been considering whether to bring civil rights charges against Pantaleo in a case that has spanned the Obama and Trump administrations and four attorneys general. The decision comes a day before the statute of limitations was due to expire.
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