Eric Garner, NYPD Grand Jury Decision Sparks Demonstrations

A Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo after video showed him putting Garner in an apparent chokehold.
7:25 | 12/04/14

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Transcript for Eric Garner, NYPD Grand Jury Decision Sparks Demonstrations
It has happened again. Just nine days after the uproar in Ferguson, a grand jury in new York City has refused to indict yet another white police officer said to have killed an unarmed black man. The incident, which involved an apparent choke hold was captured on video and went viral. And tonight, protesters are in the streets. The president is weighing in. And ABC's Ron Claiborne is on the story. Reporter: Angry crowds tonight in the streets of new York. Protesting yet another controversial grand jury decision. I can't breathe! Reporter: Adding a new chant to the growing chorus of civil discontent across the country. Now responding to the white police officer seen here, not facing charges for holding down an unarmed black man, Eric garner, in an apparent choke hold that is said to have eventually killed him. Protests breaking out in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Oakland, California. Don't touch, . Do not touch, . Reporter: Outraged sparked by this video from July. Garner, who has been accused of selling cigarettes illegal little on New York's Staten island, seen here being taken down by Daniel Pantaleo. I can't breathe! I can't breathe! Reporter: The officer, apparently using a banned choke hold on garner. The father of six later died. Hitz death was ruled a home side by the medical examiner. But the grand jury choosing not to indict officer Pantaleo. A decision that infuriated many. It was over a lousy cigarette that killed the man. Anybody with eyes can see what happened. How in the hell did it go that way? Reporter: In a statement released tonight, Pantaleo said, "It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel bad tab the death of Mr. Garner." Garner's family, furious with the grand jury's decision and unmoved by the apology. Hell no. The timeor remorse would have been when my husband was yelling to breathe. Reporter: The 22-person grand jury, composed of 13 or 14 white Joo jurors and 9 or 10 black or hispanic jurors met for more than four months and heard from more than 22 witnesses. As a legal matter, police officers are allowed to do things ordinary people aren't allowed to do. The question becomes, when do they cross the line? When was it no longer objectively reasonable to use the kind of force that they did? Hands up, don't shoot! Reporter: The outrage over this incident stems from one underlying worry. That in the eyes of the judicial system, black lives don't matter. Black lives do not matter to the system. Time and time again, you're seeing us being murdered and time and time again, you're seeing the police go free. It is screaming that the police are not being held accountable. You've heard in so many places, people of all backgrounds, utter the same basic phrase. They've said, black lives matter. And they said it because it had to be said. It's a phrase that should never have to be said. It should be self-evident. Reporter: And for many, today's decision echoed what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, when charges were not brought on Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael brown. Garner's confrontation with police was captured on video. It all unfolded in a matter of minutes. Two plain clothes officers confronting garner who had been arrested more than 30 times, confronting him about selling those cigarettes, a misdemeanor. I'm minding by business. Reporter: Two officers move in and try to physically arrest him. Garner seems to resist. Within seconds, the 350-pound man is down. From the ground, garner cries out. I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe! Reporter: For several long minutes, garner lays on the ground, not moving. He's like, I'm not resisting, I'm not resisting and then it was, I can't breathe, and that's it. You see his arm get stiff and I knew. Reporter: Paramedics arrive. One of them is seen speaking to garner. Ems. Come on. We're going to help you out. All right? Reporter: But they appear to do nothing. Finally, garner is placed on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a local hospital. About an hour later, he is pronounced dead. Ruled a homicide, the medical examine nerm's report did note that garner's health conditions, like asthma and heart disease also led to his death. The medical examiner found that it was a homicide, but all that really means is that he died at the hands of another. That doesn't necessarily mean that what the police officer did was a crime. Reporter: The policeman's union said that sometimes force is necessary. At times, when officers are required to make an arrest, they must employ the use of force in order to get compliance. Officer Pantaleo maintains that he used an approved takedown technique. After the incident, the NYPD ordered a massive overhaul of the police force, including new training on restraint techniques and adopting body cameras. Swipe the screen and now you can see what my camera is seeing. Reporter: More and more police departments across the nation are employing these cameras. We rode along with the los Angeles sheriff's department that showed us how they work. Do you have your driver's license on you, sir? Reporter: The department saying that cameras lead to more transparency, for both the officers and the alleged perpetrators. Going to handcuff you for my safety, okay? Being that you got a sir ring on you, okay? Reporter: But all of those video cameras didn't stop the use of what became lethal force in the case of Eric garner. Time for us to make more progress than we've made. I'm not interested in talk. I'm interested in action. Reporter: The U.S. Justice department now announcing it will launch a civil rights investigation. There is still likely a very strong civil case that his family can and will bring against the city. Reporter: New York City mayor bill delaziede Blasio addressed the city, calling for calm. If you want to dignify the life of Eric garner, you will not sully his name with violence or vandalism. Reporter: More than a dozen arrested so far, but no riots, no fires. Garner's step-father, outraged earlier in the evening -- later channelling his emotions to diffuse a situation near where Eric garner died. Keep the peace. Let's keep the peace. Reporter: But many are promising protests well into the week. Fighting for justice they feel will come no time soon. The man was lynched. For the whole world to see. And our system of justice is so corrupt that they couldn't even indict the officer that committed the murderer. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm Ron Claiborne in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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