Staten Island Man's Family Continues Calls For Justice Following Grand Jury Decision


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Eric Garner’s family is continuing to call for justice a day after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in connection with the 43-year-old’s death.

Speaking Thursday on “CBS This Morning,” Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, said “somebody needs to pay” for her husband’s death.

“That was my life, my husband,” she said. “He was my life — we’ve been married 27 years. How do you wake up the next day without your life partner? He was somebody that I was supposed to share the rest of my life with. He’s no longer here and we need justice for this. Somebody needs to pay.”

Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said justice will only be served “when everyone who was involved in my son’s death that day stands accountable.”

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“Then I will feel like I was justified,” Carr said. “That was so inhumane what they did to my son.”

She added, “No mother, no grandmother should have to ever go through the pain that we went through. It’s horrible.”

Visiting the site where her son died struggling with police, Carr told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane voiced optimism that the federal government is launching its own investigation.

“At least we’ll get a fair and just decision this time because that grand jury’s decision (was) outrageous,” she said.

Garner died in July after police officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island.

In cellphone video of the incident, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck in an apparent chokehold and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.

Garner, who was black, is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” He died a short time later.

The city medical examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s apparent chokehold as well as chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.” Asthma, heart disease and obesity were also contributing factors.

On Wednesday, a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo in connection with Garner’s death, prompting protests throughout New York City and around the country.

“I’m very proud to see Americans of all races and ages say, ‘wait a minute now, a grand jury is not supposed to say whether someone is innocent or guilty, a grand jury is there to say is there probable cause to go to trial?'” the Rev. Al Sharpton said. “That tape says, ‘let’s go to trial and see what happens.’ But for the grand jury to look to the tape and say, ‘let’s not go to trial,’ that’s hard for a lot of people to swallow.”

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan released a statement Wednesday saying his office conducted a thorough investigation before presenting evidence to the grand jury.

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He said the grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to bring charges against Pantaleo.

Pantaleo also released a statement Wednesday, saying: “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.”

But Esaw Garner says she doesn’t accept the officer’s apology. She said if her husband had been tasered or incapacitated in some way and still lived, “maybe then I could accept his apology.”

Despite the grand jury’s decision, Sharpton said the criminal process is not over. On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is opening a probe into Garner’s death.

“They can bring criminal charges,” Sharpton said.

Pantaleo also faces a full department probe from the NYPD. The administrative investigation will look at all the elements of the event, including the actions of all officers present.

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