Almost one year to the day after he died at the hands of New York City police officers — an episode that fueled months of racially underscored anti-police protests across the nation — the family of Eric Garner accepted a pretrial settlement from the city Monday.
Garner’s estate, which filed a claim against the city in October 2014 for damages related to his death, will be paid $5.9 million, according to a city official.
“Following a judicious review of the claim and facts of this case, my office was able to reach a settlement with the estate of Eric Garner that is in the best interests of all parties,” said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, whose office is charged with settling claims against the city.
NYC: settlement an acknowledgment, not an admission
Cell phone video of the fatal encounter in July 2014 shows Garner, an African-American man, being held on the ground by an NYPD officer in an apparent chokehold. Garner, who had been apprehended for allegedly illegally selling cigarettes, repeatedly yelled, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” — words that would later become a rallying cry at anti-police demonstrations.
“We are all familiar with the events that led to the death of Eric Garner and the extraordinary impact his passing has had on our City and our nation,” said Stringer. “It forced us to examine the state of race relations, and the relationship between our police force and the people they serve.”
No officer was indicted in his death, and Stringer said that while the multi-million dollar settlement “acknowledges the tragic nature of Mr. Garner’s death… the city has not admitted liability.”
The incident — and perhaps the subsequent protests — triggered reforms in several areas how police go about their business, particularly in minority communities. Asked about Garner prior to the settlement announcement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the anniversary of his death was on his mind, as it was with many New Yorkers, but also said “I think the important thing is to stay focused on the work of reform.”
“I think we’ve come a long way, even in the last year, in terms of bringing police and community together,” said de Blasio. “The whole police force is being retrained.”
Eric Garner’s family will hold a Tuesday morning press conference at the National Action Network in New York.
By Kevin Conlon