NYC settles Eric Garner chokehold case for $5.9 million

Reuters / Eduardo Munoz
The City of New York will pay the family of Eric Garner, who died last year after police placed him in a chokehold, a total of $5.9 million to settle a wrongful death claim. The family had originally sought $75 million.

News of the settlement came Monday evening just a few days before a deadline that would have seen the Garner family file a lawsuit against the city, which would have involved a lengthy and expensive court battle, the New York Times reported. No further details about the controversial confrontation between Garner and New York City police were released.

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

The deal arrived almost one year after 43-year-old Garner died. On July 17, 2014, he was confronted by NYPD officers for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island. Garner, an African-American father of six, said he had done nothing wrong. Video captured by a bystander showed multiple officers taking Garner to the ground while attempting to arrest him, with Officer Daniel Pantaleo placing Garner in a chokehold banned by the department. During the incident, Garner is heard saying “I can’t breathe” 11 times.

READ MORE: Revealed: More than 1,000 complaints of NYPD chokeholds in recent years

A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, but a grand jury declined to press charges against Officer Pantaleo, a decision that sparked massive protests over police behavior in New York City and around the United States.

According to Reuters, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said the settlement was “in the best interest of all parties.” He said the city did not admit liability for Garner’s death.

“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,” Stringer said in a statement.

The Garner family, accompanied by Reverend Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, is scheduled to address the settlement Tuesday morning. The family is also set to lead a rally on Saturday, as it seeks to urge federal prosecutors to bring a case against the officer involved in Garner’s death.

“This is not about people getting money,” Sharpton said, according to the NY Times. “This is about justice. We’ve got to restructure our police departments and how we deal with policing nationwide.”

It’s unclear if federal officials have a case to bring against Pantaleo, who is white, since filing a civil rights lawsuit would require proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer willfully violated Garner’s rights and targeted him because of his race. The Times reported that an NYPD investigation into the case has been completed, but it’s not clear if any officers involved in the incident will face punishment.

Last week, the Garner family reportedly turned down a settlement offer of $5 million.