News Eric Garner timeline: Tension, reform and where the case stands now By Caroline Linton Updated July 17, 2016 8:03 AM Print Share fbShare Tweet gShare Email The death of Eric Garner on Staten Island after a police officer grabbed him by the throat in an arm lock that appeared to be an illegal chokehold on July 17, 2014, shook the city and led to calls for the reform of the NYPD. His words caught on video --"I can't breathe" -- became a rallying cry for civil rights activists. Garner's name was added to a list of black men who have died in sometimes violent confrontations with police around the country -- from Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to Freddie Gray in Baltimore -- sparking riots and protests and demands for more police accountability. Here's a timeline of the evens surrounding Garner's death and its repercussions. July 17, 2014: Eric Garner dies after being put in an apparent chokehold by NYPD Photo Credit: National Action Network The NYPD said officers tried to arrest Garner, 43, on a Tompkinsville sidewalk for selling loose cigarettes. According to a video of the incident, Garner said, "I didn't do [expletive]! I was just minding my own business. Every time you want to mess with me, I'm tired of it. It stops today." NYPD officers closed in on Garner, who was 6-foot-4 and weighed around 350 pounds. Officer Daniel Pantaleo put an apparent chokehold on Garner, who fell to the ground and said repeatedly, "I can't breathe." Garner was taken to Richmond University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. His wife, Esaw Garner, told the Daily News that she was told police were investigating her husband's death because of wrongdoing. July 18, 2014: Video is published by the Daily News Photo Credit: Daily News A friend of Garner's, Ramsey Orta, filmed his death with his cellphone and sent it to the Daily News, which posted the video shortly afterward. The footage caused an immediate reaction from the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio called the video "troubling" and immediately postponed a planned family vacation to Italy. July 19, 2014: Al Sharpton holds rally with Garner family; Pantaleo suspended Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine The Rev. Al Sharpton held rallies in Harlem and Staten Island with Garner's family. "This is going to be a real test to see where policies are in the city now and whether the change that we feel occurred has occurred," Sharpton said, according to the Staten Island Advance. Sharpton also said Garner's funeral would be held a week later and that he would pay for it. The NYPD said it had suspended Pantaleo, the officer who put Garner in the apparent chokehold, and stripped him of his gun. Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran, had several civil rights lawsuits filed against him. Meanwhile, the independent Civilian Complaint Board said it was investigating more than 1,000 complaints about police officers using chokeholds, a move banned by the NYPD. July 20, 2014: Second video released Photo Credit: Trisha Allen via Facebook Days after Garner's death, a second video was posted on Facebook by eyewitness Taisha Allen. The footage shows officers standing around as Garner lay motionless on the sidewalk. Even after EMS arrives, nobody performs CPR. When one onlooker asks why, an officer says "'cause he's breathing." The next day, the EMT and paramedics who responded were suspended without pay. July 22, 2015: Vigil is held on Staten Island Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt Al Sharpton and the National Action Network held a candlelight vigil at the site where Garner died on Victory Boulevard and Bay Street. July 23, 2014: Eric Garner's funeral Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt Hundreds of people attended Garner's funeral in Brooklyn, where Sharpton said, "We cannot live in a city that can choke us." Sharpton said he and Garner's family would ask for a federal civil rights investigation. "This here was absolutely murder," said one of Garner's neighbors, according to The New York Times. July 31, 2014: Sharpton, de Blasio and Bratton hold roundtable Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt During a roundtable discussion at City Hall, Sharpton called on de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton to make major changes in the NYPD's use of force. While de Blasio defended his response after Garner's death, Sharpton fired back, "If Dante wasn't your son, he'd be a candidate for a chokehold." Sharpton also attacked Bratton's "broken windows" policy, saying it disproportionally affected blacks and Latinos. De Blasio defended Bratton, but said afterward, "I take Rev. Sharpton's admonition to heart: The time is now." Aug. 1, 2014: Garner's death ruled a homicide Photo Credit: National Action Network The medical examiner said Garner's death was caused by a police chokehold, and ruled the death a homicide. The medical examiner's office also noted Garner's weight and asthma as being factors in his death. After the ruling, de Blasio issued a statement saying that he would work with "all involved authorities" to "ensure a fair and justified outcome." Meanwhile the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, said that if Garner "had not resisted the lawful order of police officers placing him under arrest, this tragedy would not have occurred." Aug. 2, 2014: Ramsey Orta arrested Photo Credit: POOL / Getty Images / Julia Xanthous Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed Pantaleo putting Garner into an apparent chokehold, was arrested on gun possession charges. Police said Orta, 22, tried to pass the weapon off on a teenager in what was described as a part of Staten Island known for drug dealing. Orta, who had a previous conviction for third-degree menancing, pleaded not guilty on Aug. 4. On Aug. 6, Orta's wife, Chrissie Ortiz, 30, was arrested in connection with an assault on a woman who allegedly criticized her husband. Ortiz said police had constantly followed Orta in search of a reason to arrest him. Aug. 13, 2014: Rally held in Times Square Photo Credit: CS MUNCY After the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, hundreds gathered in Times Square and Union Square to protest both Brown's death and Garner's death. Meanwhile, six Democratic New York congressmen asked for a federal investigation into Garner's death. Aug. 19, 2014: Staten Island prosecutors announce grand jury investigation Photo Credit: Getty Images / AFP / Jewel Samad One month after Garner's death, Staten Island prosecutors said they would present evidence to a grand jury to see if criminal charges were necessary in Garner's death. In the wake of the decision, Garner's family said they would still seek a federal investigation into his death. Aug. 22, 2014: Thousands rally in Sharpton-led protest Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine Thousands converged for a peaceful march starting at the Tompkinsville location where Garner died one month earlier. Among the protesters were Garner's family, former New York Gov. David Paterson, Amadou Diallo's mother Kadi Diallo and thousands who were bused in on so-called Justice Caravans from across the country. Protesters chanted "I can't breathe" and carried signs reading "Hold Killer Cops Accountable." "It's not white or black," said Garner's widow, Esaw Garner. "They did wrong and they need to pay for doing wrong." Oct. 7, 2014: Garner's family says they intend to sue the NYPD Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle Garner's family filed a $75 million notice of claim against NYC and six NYPD officers involved in using the apparent chokehold against Garner. A notice of claim is the first step before suing the city. In the claim, Garner's family said his death was the direct result of police actions. Attorney Sanford Rubenstein, a onetime ally of Sharpton and his National Action Network, filed the notice of claim, but his firm was taken off the case within days due to allegations that the NYPD was investigating the lawyer for rape. Dec. 3, 2014: Body cameras for NYPD announced Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton As NYC waited for the Garner grand jury decision, Bratton and de Blasio announced that a pilot program to equip NYPD officers with body cameras was being sped up. The cameras are turned on at the officer's discretion. "When something happens, to have a video record of it, from the police officers' perspective, is going to help in many, many ways," de Blasio said. Dec. 3, 2014: Grand jury decides not to indict Pantaleo Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle After a two-month investigation, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo and the other officers involved. The other officers were granted immunity, so Pantaleo was the only one who could have been charged. Garner's family reacted with shock and de Blasio called for calm in the city. "Today's outcome is one that many in our city did not want," de Blasio said. The mayor also said he and his wife spoke to their son, Dante, about "how to take special care with any encounter he may have with police officers." Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan said he would seek to unseal the grand jury's decision, a relatively unusual move. Pantaleo remained on suspension. Thousands protested in New York City, and demonstrations broke out in cities across the country; relatively few arrests were reported in NYC. In one peaceful demonstration, protesters staged a "die-in" at Grand Central Terminal. Other protesters gathered at Times Square and Rockefeller Center, where protesters interrupted the Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting. Massive protests continued throughout the week, with protesters lying in the street on Dec. 4; a "die-in" held at Macy's and the Apple Store on Dec. 6; and protesters marching into train stations on Dec. 7. Dec. 4, 2014: Cuomo promises legislative action Photo Credit: Getty Images / Bryan Thomas Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised new laws and procedures in the wake of the grand jury's decision not to indict Pantaleo. "I think longterm this is something we have to look at in the coming session," Cuomo told public radio's "Capitol Pressroom." "This is about race relations, this is about police training ... this is about transparency, this is about accountability, this is about diversity in the police force. It's all of the above, and it's about the grand jury process." Dec. 8, 2014: LeBron James wears "I Can't Breathe" shirt Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac In the days following the grand jury decision, athletes and other celebrities joined in the protests, wearing shirts that said "I can't breathe." LeBron James wore the shirt on Dec. 8 at Barclays Center. It was the same night Prince William and his wife, Catherine, were in attendance. At City Hall, City Council members wore shirts that said "I Can't Breathe" 11 times -- the number of times Garner said it before he died. The 12 council members also staged a "die-in" in City Hall and marched to Broadway in support of the protesters. Dec. 18, 2014: Brooklyn man charged with assault of NYPD officer at protests Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle Robert Murray, 43, of Brooklyn, was charged with assaulting an NYPD lieutenant who had come to the aid of another officer being attacked by Garner protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge. A video of the alleged assault went viral. Eric Linkser, 29, of Crown Heights, was also charged. Dec. 20, 2014: Two NYPD officers shot and killed Photo Credit: NYPD NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, were on duty in Brooklyn when they were shot execution-style by Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Brinsley called the NYPD "pigs" on Instagram, and posted "They take 1 of ours, let's take 2 of theirs" with the hashtag RIPEricGarner and RIPMikeBrown. Brinsley fled the scene after the shooting to a nearby subway station, where he then fatally shot himself in the head. In a news conference shortly after the shooting, de Blasio said "our city is in mourning." PBA President Pat Lynch slammed de Blasio after the shooting, saying "there's blood on many hands tonight ... That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor." Dec. 27, 2014: Officers turn their backs on de Blasio at Ramos' funeral Photo Credit: Charles Eckert More than 25,000 police officers, dignitaries and mourners went to the funeral for Rafael Ramos, and in a show of solidarity against de Blasio, hundreds of officers turned their backs when he spoke inside. "New York City has lost a hero," de Blasio said. Jan. 4, 2015: NYPD turns their backs at Liu's funeral Photo Credit: Andrew Theodorakis After hundreds of officers turned their backs on de Blasio at Ramos' funeral, Bratton asked officers to not show their unhappiness at Liu's Brooklyn funeral. But hundreds disregarded that request, and turned away from de Blasio as he spoke. "For a mayor, there is no more solemn ceremony than this -- mourning a man whose life was taken while fighting for all that is decent and good," de Blasio said. Lynch defended his members' actions, saying "police officers feel that City Hall has turned their backs on them, and we have the right to have our opinion heard like everyone else that protests out in the city." A Quinnipiac poll released a few weeks later indicated that two-thirds of New Yorkers did not approve of the police's reaction. Jan. 8, 2015: Bratton acknowledges NYPD slowdown Photo Credit: Charles Eckert After rumors spread for weeks that the NYPD had stopped issuing tickets for low-level offenses, Bratton admitted to a slowdown. "They never totally stopped working," Bratton insisted. "Arrests continue to be made, crime continued to go down ... Public safety has not been impacted." Jan. 14, 2015: De Blasio says he won't apologize to cops Photo Credit: Charles Eckert As the rift with the police union continued, de Blasio acknowledged that cops have "valid issues" but he said he would not apologize for his remarks after the Garner grand jury verdict. "You can't apologize for your fundamental beliefs," de Blasio said. Meanwhile, Cuomo met privately with police union leaders, calling the feud with de Blasio "a distraction we don't need." Feb. 17, 2015: Judge calls for change in grand jury process Photo Credit: Getty Images / AFP / Jewel Samad In light of the Garner and Michael Brown grand jury decisions, New York's chief judge called for judges to oversee proceedings that involved police and civilians. Judge Jonathan Lippman said the Garner decision and ones like it can "undermine public trust and confidence in the justice system. March 19, 2015: Judge declines to release grand jury testimony Photo Credit: Getty Images / AFP / Jewel Samad Supreme Court Judge William Garnett refused to release the grand jury testimony in the Garner case, saying he was not given valid reason to release the information, which is barred under New York State law. The New York Civil Liberties Union and other groups had sought to make the information public, especially after the grand jury information in Ferguson, Missouri, was released to the public. April 11, 2015: $47,500 donated for Ramsey Orta's bail Photo Credit: Daily News Nearly 2,000 people donated $47,500 to pay the bail of Ramsey Orta, who had filmed Garner's death and sent it to the Daily News. Orta was freed after spending two months on Rikers Island after a February arrest for allegedly selling drugs to undercover officers. July 8, 2015: Cuomo signs executive order for state attorney general to investigate police killings Photo Credit: Getty Images / Bryan Thomas Under legislation signed by Cuomo, the state's 62 district attorneys lost investigative and prosecutorial jurisdiction over cases where a police officer kills an unarmed civilian. The governor said he expects the order to last a year while he pushes the state Legislature to take more sweeping action on police conduct. July 13, 2015: Garner family, NYC reach $5.9M settlement Photo Credit: Bryan R. Smith Days before the one-year anniversary of Garner's death, his family settled a lawsuit against the city for $5.9 million. "No federal charges have been filed against the officer who killed Mr. Garner, and the settlement with the city does not establish justice," the family and Sharpton said in a statement. The family also announced plans for a rally outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn for July 18. They have long called for federal charges to be filed against Pantaleo. July 18, 2015: March held on anniversary of Garner's death Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote On the one-year anniversary of Garner's death, hundreds rallied outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. "I will never stop fighting for him," said his widow Esaw Garner. July 26, 2015: Grand jury settlement will remain closed Photo Credit: YouTube A panel of appellate court judges upheld the earlier court decision not to release the grand jury minutes that did not lead to charges against Pantaleo. Grand jury minutes are kept secret by law in New York State, and the judges ruled that releasing the minutes could "negatively interfere with" the federal investigation into Garner's death. February 2016: Federal grand jury hears evidence in Garner case Photo Credit: Getty Images / Stephanie Keith Federal prosecutors began presenting evidence to a grand jury in an effort to determine whether or not Garner's civil rights were violated. But recently things have stalled as prosecutors are at odds on how, or if, to proceed with the case, according to The New York Times. Oct. 25, 2016: New Justice Dept. team assigned to Garner case Photo Credit: Getty Images / Stephanie Keith A new team at the Justice Department was assigned to the investigation into Garner's death, according to a New York Times report. The new team of agents could potentially jump-start the case that has been stalled up until now, officials told The Times. Federal prosecutors had started presenting evidence to a grand jury but the investigation stalled as officials were at odds on whether or not to bring charges, according to the Times. Federal prosecutors and FBI officials were against charging Pantaleo, while the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department argued the opposite, according to the paper. Recently, the FBI agents who have been investigating the case were replaced with agents from outside New York, and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are no longer assigned to the case, according to the paper. Pantaleo remains on modified duty and has yet to face departmental review, police said. By Caroline Linton Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments Comments section is temporarily on hold. Here’s why.