Eric Garner’s untimely death at the hands of New York police will cost the city $5.9 million, based on a settlement reached Monday night between Garner’s family and the city.
The news, reported by the Garners’ attorney to The New York Times, came just one day after it was reported the Garners had rejected a $5 million offer. Their rejection prompted praise from some who regarded the offer as “insultingly low,” but in the end it appears they were holding out for just a little more rather than seeking a huge court judgment.
Prior to the settlement, the Garners planned to file a wrongful death suit with the city for $75 million.
Garner’s death sparked national outrage, especially from the black community, when he was killed during an altercation with police on July 17, 2014. Garner, who had a lengthy history of arrests for minor criminal offenses, was confronted by police for allegedly selling illegal “loosie” (unpackaged) cigarettes. Garner, who was unarmed, resisted arrest and was placed in a chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo before being forced to the ground. Garner began to repeatedly say “I can’t breathe,” and shortly afterwards lost consciousness and died. A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, and the entire affair was caught on camera.
In December, the grand jury cleared Pantaleo of all charges, causing a torrent of outrage from activists already upset over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Protesters in several cities blocked traffic and held “die-ins” in public places. “I can’t breathe” became a common chant in the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
The settlement offer was made by New York Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has pursued a strategy of settling the city’s civil rights claims before they go to trial in order to avoid exposing the city to immense judgments.
“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 public statement.
The settlement is a relative drop in the bucket for New York, which has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in the last few years settling cases related to alleged NYPD misconduct.
While a financial settlement may have been reached, demonstrations related to Garner’s death are unlikely to be over. The Garners, in collaboration with the Rev. Al Sharpton, have been planning a march for next Saturday to pressure the federal government to bring its own charges against Pantaleo.
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