Police Officer Says He Feels 'Very Bad' About Eric Garner Choke Hold Death

PHOTO: Daniel Pantaleo, the Staten Island cop accused of putting Eric Garner in a fatal choke hold, was not indicted by a Staten Island grand jury.PlayNew York Daily News
WATCH No Indictment for NYPD Officer in Choke Hold Death

A New York City police officer who will not be indicted for the death of a man he put in a choke hold has spoken out for the first time since the incident.

Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, 29, was suspended in mid-July following the death of Eric Garner. He issued a statement today after it was announced that a Staten Island grand jury has declined to indict the officer.

"I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can't protect themselves," Pantaleo said in the statement. "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."

Garner's family has already announced that they intend to file a wrongful death lawsuit against NYPD for $75 million.

Jonathan Moore, the attorney for Garner's family, said that the grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer shows marked similarities to the decision of the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury when it chose not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot unarmed teen Michael Brown.

"The family is very upset and disappointed that these officers are not getting indicted for any criminal conduct," Moore said.

The family also took issue with the way that the police officers involved were handled when it came to their grand jury testimony. Both Pantaleo and his partner testified in front of the 23-person jury. The partner had immunity from prosecution at the time of his appearance.

"As we saw in Ferguson sometimes these grand jury’s turn into trials without the real parties being present to cross examine the participants," Moore said in the statement. "It’s hard to believe that that all the officers other than Daniel were granted immunity. As evidenced by the video there were several officers who impacted Mr. Garner while he was on the ground. These officers were granted immunity before any evidence was ever presented."

The president of the city's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, said that while they are "pleased" with the decision, "there are no winners today."

"It is clear that the officer's intention was to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed and that he used the take down technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused," Lynch said in a statement.

The July 17 incident was caught on video and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton previously described the officer's move as a choke hold, which is not an approved technique for the police department.

Bratton also said that every member of the NYPD would have to be retrained in light of the incident.