On July 12, the New York City Comptroller’s Office settled with the family of Eric Garner, offering them $5.9 million in damages. The settlement comes nearly a year after the 43-year-old African American was killed by police.
The Associated Press reports that the two parties reached an agreement after months of litigation. Last October, the family filed a notice of claim against the city, which is the formal first step in filing a lawsuit against New York, and asked for $75 million.
Garner was killed on July 17, 2014, in Staten Island outside a convenience store after several members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) confronted him about selling “loosies” (single cigarettes), which are illegal. Garner denied any wrongdoing and told the officers to leave him alone. After refusing to be handcuffed, the officers took him to the ground with one putting him in a chokehold, which is not permitted by the NYPD.
Garner, who was obese and asthmatic, was heard gasping “I can’t breathe!” 11 times before he lost consciousness. He died later that day in a hospital. According to a city medical examiner, his cause of death was “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”
The event was recorded by a bystander with a smartphone. Quickly released to the mainstream media, the video caused uproar in the city and throughout the country, igniting a debate about the excessive use of force in American police departments — especially against minority communities.
The officer who put Garner in a chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo, has since been put on desk duty and has been stripped of his gun and badge, according to the New York Daily News. However, he eluded state charges in December after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict him for murder. He still faces a Department of Justice probe as well as a pending internal affair investigation by the NYPD.
The city decided to settle with Garner’s family and avoid a trial. Comptroller Scott Stringer said his office wanted to avoid a lengthy trial and with it legal fees.
“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.
It comes as no surprise the lawsuit was settled out of court considering that up to 92% of them are settled pre-court.