The widow of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man choked to death by a police officer, has reached a settlement with the city of New York. ABC News reports Esaw Garner accepted a $5.9 million offer, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer.
“Following a judicious review of the claim and facts of this case, my office was able to reach a settlement with the estate of Eric Garner that is in the best interests of all parties,” Stringer said in a statement. “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.”
According to a lawyer interviewed by The New York Daily News, Stringer was motivated to settle the case quickly because it was generating bad publicity for the city. Also, if the case had gone to a jury trial, the city could have been hit with an even higher fine.
“I think Stringer recognizes that this case is highly politicized and depending on the jury, there could be a very substantial reward that would be higher than a typical wrongful death case,” the lawyer said.
The New York Daily News reported the Garner family had initially rejected a $5 million offer. The family filed a $75 million claim against the City of New York a year ago. They are also suing EMTs from Richmond University Medical Center, who failed to provide medical aid to Garner.
Garner died after New York police tried to arrest him for selling unlicensed cigarettes on the street. He was tackled and brought to the ground by several police officers. However, Officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in an illegal choke hold, which cut off his air supply. Garner was captured on video saying, “I can’t breathe,” 11 times. This later became a rallying crying for #Blacklivesmatter activists.
However, even though the incident was captured on video, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo. Esaw Garner was disgusted by the grand jury’s decision.
“It seems like because they didn’t prosecute the officers on Staten Island, all the other officers were like, ‘Hell. We’ll get away with it. Let’s just do it again,’” she said.
Officer Pantaleo may still be facing additional charges. The New York Daily News reported the Brooklyn U.S. attorney is looking at charging Pantaleo with civil rights violations.
- The City of New York paying the families of Black men killed by the police is a disturbingly common occurrence. Some other cases include:
- The family of Anthony Baez, who was choked to death by Officer Francis Livoti, was paid $3 million. Livoti was angry a football had struck his police cruiser.
- The family of African immigrant Amadou Diallo was paid $3 million in 2004. Diallo was shot 41 times in front of his apartment after New York police mistook his wallet for a gun.
- The City of New York paid the family of Sean Bell $3.25 million after he was mistakenly shot by local police the night before his wedding. One of Bell’s friends, who was also wounded, received $3 million, another friend, who was also shot, got $900,000.
- The city also paid the family of Ramarley Graham, who was shot by police in a botched drug bust, $3.9 million earlier this year.
According to Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, the justice system fails to hold police officers responsible for their actions.
“[Cops] know basically nothing is going to happen to them,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you wear blue jeans, a blue suit or a blue uniform, if you commit a crime, you should be held accountable for that crime.”