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Hands Up, Don’t Sue: New York Agrees To $5.9 Million Settlement With Eric Garner’s Family

Nearly one year after Eric Garner was killed by a New York City police chokehold, the city has reached a $5.9 million settlement with Garner’s family.

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Nearly a year after Eric Garner’s homicide at the hands of police, New York City on Monday reached a $5.9 million settlement with Garner’s family. Garner died shortly after he was placed in a chokehold by police in July of 2014.

According to the New York Times:

New York City reached a settlement on Monday with the family of Eric Garner, agreeing to pay $5.9 million to resolve the claim over his killing by the police last July on Staten Island, according to a lawyer representing the family.

The agreement, reached days before the deadline to file suit in the death, appeared to be among the biggest reached so far as part of a strategy by the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, to settle major civil rights claims even before a lawsuit is filed. Mr. Stringer has said the aim is to save taxpayers the expense of a drawn-out trial and to give those bringing the suits and their families a measure of closure.

Last year, Mr. Garner’s relatives, including his widow, Esaw Garner, and with his mother, Gwen Carr, filed a notice of claim — a procedural step that must precede a lawsuit against the city — seeking $75 million in damages. Mr. Garner died on July 17 after a police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, placed him in a chokehold during an arrest as other officers wrestled him to the ground. The confrontation was captured in a cellphone video taken by a bystander.

Garner’s death caused a nationwide outcry about excessive force by police. Garner, who was cited by law enforcement for selling cigarettes, resisted arrest and told police he was tired of being harassed by them. After police placed him in a chokehold — one that was explicitly banned by police because it “cut[s] off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain” — Garner repeatedly yelled, “I can’t breathe!” As Garner lay on the ground dying, EMS personnel at the scene refused to assist him.

Citing evidence that Garner died due to “compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” the medical examiner classified Garner’s death as a homicide. A Staten Island jury, however, refused to indict the officer responsible for placing Garner in a chokehold that was explicitly prohibited by NYPD.

The city had until July 17, the one-year anniversary of Eric Garner’s homicide, to settle the claim with his family or risk a full-blown wrongful death lawsuit for up to $75 million.