A grand jury in Staten Island has decided not indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in relation to the death of Eric Garner, a man that Pantaleo was seen on video putting in an apparent choke hold in July, according to city officials and lawyers for Garner's family.
The grand jury's decision means that there will not be criminal charges in the case, but NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said earlier today that there may be up to three other investigations into the incident that could lead to a civil case or federal charges.
Garner's family has already indicated that they plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the NYPD for $75 million.
The grand jury was made up of 23 residents of Staten Island and led by a foreperson. A decision required a majority of the jury -- meaning at least 12 people.
Pantaleo, 29, and his police partner, Justin D'Amico, testified in front of the jury. D'Amico appeared only after being granted immunity from prosecution.
In a statement after the grand jury decision was announced, Pantaleo said: "I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can't protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave an emotional plea this evening for protesters to stay non-violent, noting how Eric Garner's father relayed that message to him shortly after the grand jury's decision was announced. De Blasio said he shared Ben Garner's pain as the father.
"I couldn't help but immediately think what it would mean to me to lose Dante," de Blasio said, referring to his son.
He went on to tell how, at a meeting about minority relations with police at the White House earlier this week, President Obama pulled him aside and said how Dante reminded him of what he used to look like as a teen, saying, "I know you see this crisis through a very personal lens."
De Blasio also acknowledged how protesters in Ferguson and across the country have been chanting "black lives matter, and they've said it because it had to be said. It's a phrase that should never have to be said -- it should be self-evident."
While this is "one chapter has closed," de Blasio added that "there are more chapters ahead." He said he spoke with both Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch after the grand jury decision. De Blasio said that the U.S. Attorney's office is actively "investigating" the incident, which comes as an important distinction since up till now, federal authorities were described as "monitoring" the case.
This grand jury decision comes 10 days after a Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury announced that it would not indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer, for fatally shooting Michael Brown, a black unarmed teen. That decision led to violent and destructive protests.
The NYPD has been preparing for the grand jury decision. Without revealing exact numbers of police officers that will be on duty, Bratton said the NYPD "will naturally gear up to deal with any potential contingency that might occur."
"We, as you might expect, are planning accordingly," Bratton said at a news conference on Tuesday.
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