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Wednesday 21 March 2018

'Chokehold' man's family gets £3.8m

Demonstrators in the Staten Island borough of New York protest at the death of Eric Garner (AP)
Demonstrators in the Staten Island borough of New York protest at the death of Eric Garner (AP)

The family of a black man who died after being placed in a hold by a white police officer has reached a 5.9 million-dollar (£3.8m) settlement with New York City, days before the anniversary of his death.

Eric Garner's death sparked demonstrations and became a flashpoint in a national debate about relations between police and minority communities.

His family filed a notice of claim in October, the first step in filing a lawsuit against the city, asking for 75 million dollars (£48.7m).

Mr Garner, 43, was stopped on July 17 last year outside a convenience store for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker shows him telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.

An officer, Daniel Pantaleo, placed his arm around Mr Garner's neck in what appeared to be a chokehold to take him to the ground and Mr Garner, who had asthma, was heard gasping "I can't breathe!" 11 times before he lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead in hospital.

The city medical examiner found that the police chokehold contributed to Mr Garner's death but a grand jury on Staten Island declined to charge the officer. A federal investigation is continuing.

New York Police Department policy bans c hokeholds but Officer Pantaleo said he used a legal takedown move.

While the city has a legal department that fields lawsuits, the New York City comptroller's office also can settle claims and comptroller Scott Stringer has made a point of doing that in civil rights cases, saying that resolving them quickly saves the city money on legal fees.

"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," Mr Stringer said in a statement announcing the settlement.

The city did not admit any liability.

Civil rights lawyer Jonathan Moore, acting for the Garner family, said there also was a settlement with the Richmond University Medical Centre, which responded to the scene. He said that settlement was confidential and there would be a press conference later with the Rev Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, and the family.

Last month the comptroller's office agreed to pay 6.25 million dollars (£4m) to a man who spent nearly 25 years in prison before being exonerated in a killing that happened while he was more than 1,000 miles away on holiday at Disney World.

A 6.4 million-dollar (£4.1m) settlement was reached with a man exonerated in the 1990 killing of a rabbi and Mr Stringer also agreed to a 2.25 million-dollar (£1.4m) payout to the family of a mentally ill inmate who died in a Rikers Island jail cell that sweltered to 101F (38.3C) degrees because of a malfunctioning heating system.

He also helped put together a 17 million-dollar (£11m) settlement in the case of three half-brothers who spent a combined 60 years in prison before their convictions were thrown out.

Mr Sharpton said the settlement was deserved but did not resolve the larger questions around policing and minorities. He said a rally planned for Saturday calling for a speedier federal investigation into Mr Garner's death would go on as planned.

"We did not march and build a movement just to get money," he said.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio said hopefully Mr Garner's family "can find some peace and finality" from the settlement.

"By reaching a resolution, family and other loved ones can move forward even though we know they will never forget this tragic incident," said Mr de Blasio, who is due to speak at a memorial service for Mr Garner today.

Press Association

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