Four years after Eric Garner died from being put in a chokehold by a New York Police Department officer, the agency now says it plans to pursue internal actions if the Department of Justice fails to act this summer.
In a letter from Lawrence Byrne, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters, the department said it had been waiting for the DOJ to make a decision on whether it would file federal charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who tackled Garner to the ground and put him in an illegal chokehold. “However, based on our most recent conversations, it has become clear that a definite date by which time a final decision by the US DOJ will be rendered in this matter cannot be predicted,” Byrne wrote.
Bryne said the department will initiate proceedings against Pantaleo in September because the Justice Department investigation “seems to have no end in sight.”
A spokesperson from the DOJ said the NYPD’s letter “does not have any bearing on the decision-making timeline at the Justice Department,” and that it would issue no further comment on the issue.
Garner’s family is understandably vexed by the slow-moving process, and the NYPD’s decision to begin disciplinary action against Pantaleo and his supervising officer, Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, in September, has only added to their frustration.
“Why September? Why September?” Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, asked. “When you could have moved in April and May and June and now it’s July. Let’s move today. We have to get action on this case.”
Despite video of the tragic incident, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo for choking Garner, sparking waves of protests across the country. The NYPD’s internal hearing would decide whether or not Pantaleo would remain on the force.