The two officers present during the arrest of Eric Garner by Officer Daniel Pantaleo are said to have testified before the grand jury Wednesday.
Federal investigators looking into the choking death of Eric Garner are reported to have convened a grand jury, something long sought by protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement.
According to the New York Daily News Forrest Christian, a veteran prosecutor in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, has begun presenting evidence to a secret grand jury, who will decide whether Officer Daniel Pantaleo violated Mr. Garner's civil rights when he confronted him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. Christian is known as a "rock star" in legal circles for his prosecution of ten New Orleans police officers who were convicted of fatally shooting innocent citizens on the Danziger Bridge after Hurricane Katrina.
The Justice Department launched the federal investigation into Mr. Garner's death in December 2014, after a New York grand jury failed to indict any of the officers present when Mr. Garner was killed. The empanelling of a federal grand jury is a recent - and significant - development.
Officer Pantaleo has been relegated to a "desk assignment" without a gun or badge since incident in July 2014. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has told reporters that an investigation by the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau has been completed, but the department is waiting until the federal investigation is resolved before announcing its findings. However, there are signs there will be consequences. NYPD Sgt. Kizzy Adonis was recently disciplined for “failure to supervise” at the scene of Mr. Garner's arrest.
The federal grand jury cannot indict Officer Pantaleo for the homicide of Mr. Garner, but will decide whether the officer violated Mr. Garner's civil rights. Prosecutors have to show there is probable cause to believe that Officer Pantaleo willfully intended to deprive Mr. Garner of his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Last summer, New York City and the Garner family reached a $5.9 million settlement in their civil suit against the city. When she was informed about the grand jury investigation, Mr. Garner’s widow, Esaw, said, “I appreciate the news, but no comment.”
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