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Grand jury will hear evidence in NYPD chokehold case

Grand jury to hear evidence in New York chokehold arrest
March planned for Saturday to protest NYPD chokehold death

A New York grand jury will hear evidence in the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest.

Staten Island Dist. Atty. Daniel Donovan said Tuesday that he will begin presenting evidence to a Richmond County Grand Jury next month.

“I assure the public that I am committed to conducting a fair, thorough, and responsible investigation into Mr. Garner’s death,” Donovan said in a statement. “I will go wherever the evidence takes me, without fear or favor.”

Garner, 43, was questioned by officers on July 17 because they suspected him of selling untaxed cigarettes. They then attempted to arrest him. Video of the incident showed an officer placing his arm across Garner’s throat and wrestling him to the ground, as Garner repeatedly says, “I can’t breathe.”

The incident has ignited controversy over NYPD policing protocols, and has sparked protests throughout the city and in the Staten Island borough where Garner died. The Rev. Al Sharpton will lead a march on Donovan's office on Saturday.

The New York City medical examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide on Aug. 1, saying he died after being placed in the chokehold and suffering neck and chest compressions. His weight, chronic asthma and cardiovascular disease were listed as contributing factors.

Two officers involved in the arrest, Daniel Pantaleo and Justin D’Amico are under investigation in relation to Garner’s death. Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and badge, and D’Amico has been placed on desk duty.

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, one of several New York legislators who has called for a federal review of Garner's death, praised Donovan's decision and again called for the officers to face criminal charges.

"Eric Garner’s senseless death was caused by an unauthorized chokehold deployed by an NYPD officer with a history of using excessive force," he said in a statement. "The decision to take the case to a Grand Jury is an important step in the right direction. We will not rest until those responsible for Mr. Garner's death are prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Patrick Lynch, president of the city's largest police union, also applauded Donovan's decision and said he hopes the legal proceedings will help alleviate the political firestorm that has erupted in the past six weeks.

“We are encouraged that this process is moving forward, and we are confident that a fair and impartial grand jury that is allowed to conduct its deliberations based on facts and not emotion or political considerations will see that justice is served," he said.

For more breaking news, follow @JamesQueallyLAT and @cmaiduc

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

10:22 a.m.: This post updated with comments from the president of the New York City police union and U.S. Rep Hakeem Jeffries

This post published at 9:20 a.m.

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