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City Settles Eric Garner Wrongful Death Claim For $5.9 Million

By Jeff Mays | July 13, 2015 8:20pm | Updated on July 13, 2015 9:34pm
Eric Garner Arrest
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New York Daily News

THE BRONX — Comptroller Scott Stringer reached a $5.9 million pre-litigation settlement with the family of Staten Island man Eric Garner, who died last year after police placed him in a chokehold during his arrest.

Garner's family filed a notice of claim in October, saying they intended to sue the city for $75 million.

The claim stated that NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo and others caused Garner's death when they placed him in a chokehold, which is against departmental procedure, while trying to place him under arrest for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on July 17, 2014.

Pantaleo wrapped his arm around Garner's neck and other officers "wrestled him to the ground while continuously choking him" despite repeated attempts by Garner to tell them, "I can't breathe," according to the notice of claim.

 The memorial shows a picture of alleged homicide victim Eric Garner with the words
The memorial shows a picture of alleged homicide victim Eric Garner with the words "I can't breathe."
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40 Acres and a Mule

Emergency medical technicians and paramedics then failed to provide "immediate medical attention," which resulted in Garner's death, according to the claim.

A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo.

The dramatic encounter was captured on video and Garner's final words became the rallying cry for a national movement questioning the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police around the country.

Stringer said the settlement was "in the best interests of all parties." Under city law, the comptroller has the power to settle any claim against the city.

"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," Stringer said in a statement.

"While we cannot discuss the details of this settlement, and the City has not admitted liability, I believe that we have reached an agreement that acknowledges the tragic nature of Mr. Garner’s death while balancing my office’s fiscal responsibility to the City," the comptroller continued.

Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed that the settlement was in the best interest of the Garner family and the city.

“No sum of money can make this family whole, but hopefully the Garner family can find some peace and finality from today’s settlement," the mayor said. "By reaching a resolution,  family and other loved ones can move forward even though we know they will never forget this tragic incident.”

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Garner's family suffered a "tragic loss" and the settlement is "one step of many that our city must take to ensure that no more families need suffer this pain."

Garner's death has had far-reaching ripples.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo mentioned the Garner case when he appointed Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as a special prosecutor to handle cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Garner was "choked to death" in April in calling for criminal justice reform.

City Councilman Rory Lancman is backing a bill that would make the use of chokeholds by police a crime and there is now a push to make the grand jury minutes public.

While New Yorkers "mourn the death of Eric Garner," relations between police and community have improved since Garner's death, de Blasio said Monday.

"I think we’ve come a long way, even in the last year, in terms of bringing police and community together," said de Blasio.

"The whole police force is being retrained. We’re moving forward on body cameras. The number of unconstitutional and unnecessary stops obviously is greatly, greatly reduced. And yet, at the same time, we continue to drive crime down."