Eric Garner’s family got a mixed message at a meeting in Brooklyn on Wednesday with two Justice Department prosecutors who said they weren’t ready to indict anyone in his controversial 2014 police-involved choking death, but they haven’t closed the case either.
“The bad news is we were not told they are going to move forward and be prosecuted,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who attended the meeting at the Brooklyn Marriott with Garner’s relatives. “The good news is they said this case is alive and it is not closed.”
But some family members expressed frustration that the civil rights probe, which began in December 2014, with aid from a cellphone video of the struggle that ended in Garner’s death, continues to drag on.
“Once again, we’re going to be playing the waiting game,” said Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother. “We came here for answers, but evidently we are still without knowing whether we will get justice or not.”
Garner’s daughter, Erica, tweeted a series of equally negative reactions from inside the Windsor Terrace Room on the Marriott’s second floor while the meeting was going on.
“The DoJ literally gathered my family in once place . . . after we have been waiting for answers for 3 years to say they can’t answer [expletive],” she tweeted.
Garner, 43, of Staten Island, died during a 2014 altercation with NYPD officers who were trying to take him into custody for selling loose cigarettes. Officer Daniel Pantaleo was shown on a video grabbing Garner around the neck from behind and taking him down. Garner gasped, “I can’t breathe” several times before dying.
A Staten Island grand jury did not indict, and last year federal prosecutors in New York recommended against civil rights charges, which require proof of intent to violate Garner’s rights. But the Justice Department’s civil rights division in Washington continued to pursue it.
The department described the 45-minute meeting with prosecutors and FBI agents as a routine update.
Sharpton said the prosecutors told the family that because of the “change of administrations” to President Donald Trump they wanted to provide assurances that the case is still being pursued “with vigor.”