New York City reached a $5.9 million settlement with the family of an unarmed black man who died after being put in a choke-hold by a police officer.
Eric Garner’s death in a confrontation over the sale of loose cigarettes was one of several highly publicized killings of black men by white officers in the past year that led to nationwide protests over police abuse.
“No sum of money can make this family whole, but hopefully the Garner family can find some peace and finality from today’s settlement,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in an e-mailed statement. “Family and other loved ones can move forward even though we know they will never forget this tragic incident.”
Garner, 43, was killed during a confrontation with Daniel Pantaleo and other officers on a Staten Island sidewalk July 17 over the sale of untaxed loose cigarettes. A widely circulated video of the incident showed Pantaleo applying a chokehold, which is prohibited by the New York City Police Department.
The deaths of Garner and Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black man shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, served as flash points amid long-simmering tensions and prompted calls for police body cameras, more training and tougher handling of charges against cops.
Garner’s death prompted a civil-rights probe by the U.S. Justice Department and spurred New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to seek special authority from Governor Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, to investigate killings by police of unarmed civilians, separate from inquiries by elected county prosecutors.
Jonathan Moore, a lawyer for the Garner family, confirmed the settlement without providing further detail ahead of a news conference set for Tuesday.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement Monday that he couldn’t discuss details of the settlement.
“The city has not admitted liability,” Stringer said.
It was in the city’s interest to settle the case, Stringer said in an interview. “You take into consideration the city’s liability in any litigation that can drag on for years and years,” he said.
The Garner settlement ranks fifth among the seven most costly settlements in civil rights claims Stringer’s office has resolved ahead of trial since he took office in January 2014. The most expensive was Robert Hill, who collected $7.15 million of a total $17 million agreement involving three men wrongly accused and convicted of murder who were incarcerated for decades.
February 2014 brought a $6.4 million settlement for David Ranta, also wrongly accused of murder, who spent 23 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and suffered a heart attack the day after his release. Jerome Murdough’s estate settled for $2.25 million after the homeless veteran died in an overheated Rikers Island jail cell.