No Indictment for NYPD Police Officer Who Killed Eric Garner, WTF

feature image via New Yorker

A Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a white police officer who killed Eric Garner on July 7th, 2014. Garner was being questioned for selling loose cigarettes when he was restrained by Pantaleo in a chokehold — a tactic that is against the police department’s policy. Garner’s arrest was caught on video where you can hear him say his last words, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

Garner’s death was ruled a homicide but today’s decision means the officer won’t face criminal charges but may face other disciplinary actions. The decision was reached after months of testimony. The jury then decides if there’s enough evidence for a criminal trial.

This grand jury decision comes more than a week after the St. Louis grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for Michael Brown’s death. 

Eric Garner was illegally choked to death on camera by a white police officer and yet this was the outcome, leading us to believe that our system can get away with murdering Black people, just because they can.

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Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and former Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her queer Latina heart. Yvonne was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Read more of her work at

Yvonne has written 205 articles for us.


  1. This makes me sick. Two cases in such a short time that prove that the police are above the law. I am disgusted.

  2. This decision is just a slap in the face. I want to be hopeful about Loretta Lynch becoming Attorney General because she has been an advocate for victims of police violence. It sickens me how the police have so little accountability.

  3. I just. It was an illegal chokehold. They caught it on video. The coroner ruled it a homicide. I know Darren Wilson’s indictment trial involved an incredibly biased prosecutor but I don’t see how a jury could think that this case doesn’t deserve imdictment. I’m in shock. Apparently it was hopelessly naive of me to believe that when you kill a fellow human being, you go on trial. Apparently it was hopelessly naive of me to believe that black people are seen as human beings.

    • I feel the same way. I was hopeful about this decision because it seemed so obvious.

      I feel like conversations about race and justice have changed so quickly– this year the term “thug” has become a term for “subhuman” and we’ve moved from acquitting people who kill innocent Black people to NOT EVEN INDICTING them.

      Or is it just that I’m more aware?

  4. i was heartbroken and speechless after Treyvon Martin. heartbroken and speechless after Mike Brown and now this. they say america has a short attention span, that once an incredible injustice occurs we forget after while. now it doesn’t matter, time or cover ups aren’t necessary

  5. So the jury watched the video, saw what happened… and then they either pretended they hadn’t seen it, or decided they didn’t care what they’d seen. This is horrific.

  6. That’s it. I give up. This shit, and by shit I mean racist white people, are hopeless and I only hope I’m not next.

    That’s really all I have to say. I don’t have the capacity for anything else. I’m done educating people just because I’m the only black person in their social circle. I’m done being angry and I’m ready to go back to my life cause I can’t live like this all the time on top of everyday racism I experience.

    • I agree. Every encounter with the police no matter how trivial is potentially lethal to black people.

    (i actually screamed at my computer screen)

    NYC queermos who wanna meet up for social justice purposes, message me and we’ll go to things together. i haven’t been an activist in the past but clearly our system is f*cked up so….

  8. This is disgusting. If a jury can’t indict a cop whose killing of a man was fucking *ruled a homicide*…just fuck everything. I do not know what to do about this shit. The police just do not care about human life, especially black lives, and they don’t care that people around the country have been protesting for months. What the fuck does it take.

    • “what the fuck does it take?” – I’ve been asking myself this since heard the news. I’m scared of what that answer might be.

  9. Some guy on my facebook feed said “if he had laid down on the ground and not resisted, the officer wouldn’t have had to use force.”

    Laid on the ground? Fuck you! If you’re surrounded by cops, you would not think to lay on the ground. Eric Garner was being extremely cooperative anyway, and what good did it do him? None.

  10. #CrimingWhileWhite i would suggest everybody go and take a look. this is one example, at “13 I stole a car with my friends & drove it for 2 wks before we got busted. only one charged was black”

  11. This is gross as hell and I have nothing productive to say, I’m just extremely pissed off.

    Thanks as always for your reporting, you all continue to be the best people on the internet.

  12. It’s just too much. Travon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Gardnere and just recently Tamir Rice has really made me think twice about having kids. Knowing that if I bring a black child into this world his or her life will undoubtly be worth less than its white counter part.

  13. This is it. This is the day I stop believing in the US justice system for good. The day I’ll stop to think “they have the murder on tape, they have witnesses, it was forbidden, there is no way around this one”. Because at least when the victim is black there apparently always is a way. There also always is a way for racist white people (who pretend to not be racist at all) to deny it was wrong.

    And as a non-American: What the fuck is a grand jury? what does it do? are they just 12 random people who if you’re lucky are educated people who understand laws, are not racist and no members of the NRA and if you’re not lucky you’re sitting there with members of the KKK, NRA members or just other random stupid people and they decide whether something goes to court or doesn’t?

    So is it possible a mix of the Kardeshians and Honey Boo Boo’s family together with Ann Coulter sit in one of those jury’s and decide whether someone goes to court or not?
    Can a prosecuter not ever press charges without these People agreeing with it?
    That seems dangerous to me.

    I feel like the laws need to change. All of the instituonalized racism is giving even more possibilities with the whole jury system.

  14. Y’all want the jury to hang Daniel Pantaleo but you don’t want to talk about the classism of criminally charging a street cop making crap pay for trying to fulfill the mandate of violence that we as a society gave him without undertaking the responsibility of understanding our expectations, the law, or his training. We want the grand jury to make right the fact that we as a society put Eric Garner on the street corner trying to make a living by selling cigarettes because we feel ill watching violence on a YouTube video from our couches. We throw around legal words we don’t fully understand like we we would be the best prosecutors in the country and it fucking hurts, but at the end of the day it’s too. damn. easy. “The system” isn’t “they.” It’s we. And we’re making this conversation way too simple. #welostathing! #racism!

    • No one wants Pantaleo to hang. We want him to be put on trial and charged with murder, because that is what should happen when you choke someone to death.

      Yes, people shouldn’t be forced into having to do illegal things to make enough money to survive. Yes, we are part of the system. We are complicit. None of that changes the fact that murder is illegal and immoral and it is not wrong to want justice for Garner’s family.

      There are many many things wrong in the world, in our country, in the human race. But it’s not okay to derail this particular conversation about how black men, women, and children are routinely murdered by police who are never held accountable.

      And I refuse to say that because there is a culture of violence in law enforcement, that that somehow means that Daniel Pantaleo shouldn’t be held accountable. The only way to change those expectations that you’re talking about is to hold people accountable. And as for the law and his training, let me reiterate what has been said: murder is illegal, even for cops. Chokeholds have been banned by the NYPD since 1993. Surely those were part of his training.

      • To accuse me of derailing the conversation of race is rudely dismissive. I’m black (it pisses me off that I have to keep saying that). I’ve had my own encounters with the police. And my own experiences with police violence. What I’m trying to do is get to what I see as the bigger picture, ideally a picture that includes understanding and solutions.

        Homicide is not illegal when it is committed by the police. Justifiable homicide is a routine part of police work. As is violence incredibly similar to what you saw in that YouTube video. That is not an issue of a culture of violence in law enforcement, rather it is the result of an interpretation of our country’s laws and a translation of that into training and procedure. If you indict Pantaleo, nothing changes. The violence continues, and given the sheer number of daily police encounters, odds are certain encounters cross the line of what we view as morally acceptable, even though we will gladly look the other way until that happens. Then we will be furious as if we had no idea it was happening all along.

        Further, choke holds are not illegal. They’re just not; anyone selling you that line is wrong. There is a difference between the law and specific department/agency procedure, and it is our responsibility as citizens (and responsible news blogs) to know the difference, and again, understand what it means for our expectations of the criminal justice system.

        Calls to see the bigger picture are not calls to apologize for the police or silence black pain, they are calls for education, action, and dialogue. I am a legitimate black voice and this website is the only place I have ever been accused of not taking race seriously enough. It is infuriating.

          • …or the structure of the legal system, “the system” everyone keeps talking about, which is what gives police officers, jurors, and attorney’s their mandate. Does the structure of that system allow for racism? Abso-fucking-lutely. Will anything change if you refuse to understand it and instead go around barking one word? Racism. Racism. Racism. Not a chance, but good luck anyway.

        • This is something that I’very been struggling with. How do we address inequality within the legal system? Nobody should be surprised that police brutality exists but it doesn’t just exist. It thrives. It’s protected. Justifiable homicide + implicit bias makes it damn near impossible for an indictment.

          There’s no doubt that the individual cop is at the bottom of an institution that trots them out at elections but cuts their benefits. Still their advantage greatly outweighs the poor and POC.

          How do we change a system that Americans have been told is just and inpartial? What do we call racism if not that?

          • Our country loves negative rights–imagine our constitution like carving out space for us to live our lives but obliging no action to uplift us. I think our duty is to look for ways to fill that space with positive change. Socially, it means we keep fighting the good fight with programs and policies that help blacks, poor people, and whoever else needs help.

            On the legal end, police use of force is derived from constitutional interpretations of the Supreme Court, so I don’t think it will change. But again, if we look to integrate positive steps within that constitutional framework, it’s a start. Community policing should be a seamless part of police training, not an afterthought. Departments should look to hire people with good interpersonal skills, and people who hail from the communities they serve. These are just a couple of thoughts. I’m sure there’s much more that can be done–it’s a long march.

          • That’s a good description. It really speaks to the rage and oppression a lot of us are feeling. We see that when space was being carved out for Americans to live in freedom–we were not who they had in mind.
            Policy change is absolutely necessary. Should legal action be used to show that the policies disproportionately hurt POC? Like with stop and frisk? Is that enough to spur a culture change within law enforcement? Because at the social services level there are already so many people and programs in place. I work at a Legal Aid (not an attorney but feeling the push to study) and no matter how many clients we serve,we exist because of unequal access to the system.

  15. I feel helpless and enraged, and exhausted by the endless ignorant comments on every article… and at the end of the day, I can turn off my computer and walk away from all of the awful feelings because I am white. I can. Not. Imagine. Living this every single day.

    • If you are talking about me, I’m black, as you’ve aptly said, you cannot imagine.

      Ignorance is resting easy at night because police officers commit this type of violence all the damn time to keep you safe; then most people only care when something goes wrong and want only to hear about a single prosecution, not the bigger picture of what needs to change.

      And if you weren’t talking about me, then I apologize for making that assumption.

      • I’m pretty sure she was just saying in general that she can turn her mind away from this stuff because it doesn’t directly affect her as a white person, and how she cannot imagine how horrible it would be if she couldn’t do that, like people of color cannot. Her intention is to express empathy, I believe.

      • Danielle, I definitely wasn’t intending that as a reply to your comment and I apologize for not being clearer about what I was referring to. I was talking about comments on FB, Twitter etc. that still try to blame the victim and deny the larger race issues even in this seemingly cut-and-dry case. I absolutely agree with you that this goes much deeper than one (or two, or ten) specific incidents.

  16. WTF. All day I think this. What the fuck. What the fuck. What the fuck.

    I heard the news of no indictment through a text while waiting in line to buy a coffee. I accidentally said WHAT THE FUCK are you serious… oh my god are you for real… And even without context the woman behind the counter shook her head and said an mmmmhmmm I know honey. I can’t believe it either.

    There’s a video. There’s proof! It was in New York! Liberal haven! Diversity! Accountability! The whole country was watching! so wtf.

    I live in Saint Louis btw. Reality already been suspended here for almost four months. Now this. wtf.

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