In a major step in the aftermath of Eric Garner‘s death, which touched off a nationwide movement against police brutality, federal prosecutors began presenting evidence to a grand jury on Wednesday, reports The New York Times.
Two officers with the New York Police Department were the first to testify before the federal grand jury in Brooklyn. The panel was convened after the U.S. Department of Justice in December 2014 launched a civil rights probe into the death of Garner, the unarmed Black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a White New York police officer in Staten Island in July 2014.
The federal inquiry began after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who applied the chokehold on Mr. Garner while moving to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
That decision touched off demonstrations across New York City that fed into broader national protests over the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers.
Video captured by a bystander showed Officer Pantaleo with his arm around Mr. Garner’s neck as he and other officers took him to the ground. Mr. Garner repeated the phrase “I can’t breathe” 11 times. The city medical examiner later determined that the chokehold had factored in his death.
Chokeholds are banned by the department, which has not yet released the full results of the internal investigation it conducted into the episode, the report notes.
Pantaleo, who was offered an opportunity to meet with federal prosecutors outside the grand jury process, declined, a source told The Times.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Kizzy Adonis, who is Black, was placed on modified duty, stripped of her gun and badge, and banned from participating in street enforcement after arriving on the scene of the confrontation. She was charged with failure to supervise. The punishment prompted howls of protest from the sergeant’s union and activists.
The city agreed to a $5.9 million settlement with Garner’s family in July, a few days short of the one-year anniversary of his death.