A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday to determine whether there will be criminal charges in the custody death of an unarmed Staten Island man whose videotaped confrontation with police sparked outrage, union officials said.
The proceedings come five weeks after the medical examiner found that a banned chokehold used by Officer Daniel Pantaleo contributed to the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island. The officer’s lawyer, Stuart London, said he expects it will take at least a month for the panel to reach a decision.
“My client is gratified that the grand jury process has begun,” London said. “He looks forward to a full, fair and thorough investigation.”
London added that the officer “believes that he committed no misconduct.”
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, predicted Pantaleo would be cleared. The union has insisted the officer used a takedown move — not a chokehold — that’s taught by the police department.
“If the evidence is presented fairly, without emotion from the street, as it is in a courtroom — just the facts, ma’am — I believe there will be a no true bill,” Lynch said.
Pantaleo and other New York Police Department officers stopped Garner on the street on July 17 on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes. A video shows the 43-year-old telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed. Pantaleo responded by taking him down. The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping, “I can’t breathe.” He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.