The mother of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died in 2014 from an alleged police chokehold, said Friday that she remained optimistic that the Obama administration may still bring civil rights charges in the case before a new U.S. attorney general takes over on Jan. 20.
“I am never going to lose hope,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told reporters outside City Hall on Friday. “I am always going to keep up hope. And we are going to stay positive that something is going to happen before January 20th.”
Carr was responding to a question about whether she feared that the staff of Attorney General Loretta Lynch wouldn’t be able to bring a civil rights case against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo before Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) — nominated for the Cabinet post by President-elect Donald Trump — takes over.
As reported, Lynch’s staff in Washington thinks federal civil rights charges against Pantaleo are warranted even though prosecutors in the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office recommended not to bring them in the case.
Pantaleo was the officer seen on amateur video taking down Garner during an arrest for the illegal sale of loose cigarettes in July 2014. Garner died, and the city medical examiner determined that his death was caused by a chokehold and chest compression while he was being restrained by police. Garner’s obesity and heart disease also contributed to his death, the medical examiner said.
“I have written to Loretta Lynch and cannot lose hope. My son was very important to me and I will not lose hope even in the 11th hour,” said Carr, referring to Trump’s impending inauguration.
Carr spoke in the company of some City Council members, activists and clergy, all of whom support a bill that would criminalize the police use of a chokehold, a tactic prohibited by NYPD policy. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in Garner’s death.
“It is time to let every officer know that if they engage in a prohibited chokehold . . . they will be held accountable,” said Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Queens), one of the bill sponsors.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD oppose the proposed legislation on the grounds that it would endanger officers and prevent them from defending themselves in cases where their lives were at risk. But a number of speakers Friday criticized de Blasio for his opposition and held out the prospect that he risked losing the support of minority voters if he vetoes the measure.