NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A grand jury decision is expected to come soon, in the case of the apparent police chokehold that killed Eric Garner on Staten Island this past summer.
Garner, a father of six, died in July after being placed in an apparent chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner was being arrested for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
The grand jury began hearing evidence in the case Sept. 29.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, a small, but spirited protest about the Garner case was held outside the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office on Tuesday.
“I hope that Officer (Daniel) Pantaleo is indicted,” said Steve Quester of the group Stand up for Racial Justice.
Quester said he would like to see the officer who was seen on video placing Garner in the chokehold charged with murder.
Former prosecutor Matthew Galluzzo said such a charge is not likely. Such a charge would require premeditation and intention to cause a death.
“A murder charge would mean there’s evidence that this officer intended to kill Mr. Garner,” he said.
But the grand jury is expected to review a range of charges, including manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment.
“I think if he didn’t testify an indictment would be almost certain.” Galluzzo said. “So I think the only way he really has to escape indictment probably is to get up there and explain – he thought he was just doing his job, maybe he’d been trained to do this or it was an accident.”
Pantaleo’s attorney, Stuart London, told CBS2’s Aiello: “My client’s nervous. (He’s) gratified the grand jurors took the time to listen to his testimony. He realizes his fate is in their hands.”
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the officers will be going by a tolerant and tougher policy, and blocking traffic will not be on the approved list of activities for protesters.
Last week, protesters were marching around the city — angry about the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting that killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. A week ago Tuesday night, the protesters blocked an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and shut down the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, and also completely blocked traffic on the FDR Drive and the West Side Highway.
Police said no such behavior will be tolerated when the grand jury rules in the Garner case. Bratton said Tuesday that he anticipates the grand jury could make a decision this week.
“If we ask you to get out of the street, you should probably get out of the street,” said NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill. “We need to get traffic, and we need to get emergency vehicles through. We have to balance their rights with the rights of the other 8 1/2 million New Yorkers.”
At a news conference to tout decreases in crime, de Blasio, Bratton and other members of the NYPD brass took pains to make it clear that they respect the right to protest and free speech. But there are still rules.
“If we think public safety is compromised, the police will act very assertively to address that problem,” de Blasio said.
Bratton and NYPD officials told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb, on Tuesday that the top ranks of the department have been working hard on a strategy for protests in the Garner case.
“We, as you might expect, are planning accordingly,” Bratton said.