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NYC settles wrongful death lawsuit by Eric Garner’s family for $5.9 million

The city had until Friday, the anniversary of Garner’s death, to come to an agreement.


Dell Cameron


New York City will pay $5.9 million to resolve a wrong death claim brought by the family of Eric Garner against police, officials said on Monday.

“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,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement.

“We are all familiar with the events that lead to the death of Eric Garner and the extraordinary impact his passing has had on our City and our nation,” added Stringer. “It forced us to examine the state of race relations, and the relationship between our police force and the people they serve.”

Garner’s family filed a notice of claim to sue the New York Police Department in October for $75 million, alleging negligence and recklessness on the part of the officers involved in his arrest. Monday’s settlement comes only a few days before the deadline to file the suit. According to the Garner family attorney, the city had until Friday, the one-year anniversary of Garner’s death, to reach an agreement and avoid a costly legal battle. 

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was killed in Staten Island one year ago during a confrontation with police officers who had accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes. A bystander captured the now-infamous video of an NYPD officer holding Garner to the ground in an apparent chokehold; the catalyst for a flood of anti-police-brutality protests that have repeatedly engulf New York City’s streets.

A medical examiner later determined Garner’s death to be a homicide resulting from the chokehold and the compression of his chest by the restraining officers. Obesity, high blood pressure, and asthma were also ruled contributing factors.

Yelled 11 times before he lost consciousness, Garner’s final words—“I can’t breath!”—have become the battle cry of a national social justice movement that aims to end the inequitable treatment of black Americans at the hands of U.S. law enforcement. “It’s sickening, people lose their life, they’re brutalized, and it’s like the police have a license to kill,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said on Sunday.

“I think it’s on the mind of many New Yorkers, and we, you know, mourn the death of Eric Garner,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “I think we’ve come a long way, even in the last year, in terms of bringing police and community together.”

“No sum of money can make this family whole, but hopefully the Garner family can find some peace and finality from today’s settlement,” added de Blasio. “By reaching a resolution, family and other loved ones can move forward even though we know they will never forget this tragic incident.”

The Justice Department has yet conclude its inquiry into Garner’s death, which was announced last December by the outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. 

Photo via fuseboxradio/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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