Family of police-violence victim 'wants justice'

NEW YORK • The family of a black father of six who died after being held in an illegal police chokehold urged the federal government to take up the case on Tuesday, after reaching a US$5.9 million (S$8 million) settlement.

Mr Eric Garner's death in July last year was the first in a year of high-profile, racially charged incidents in which white officers have been accused of using unreasonable force or being too quick to fire at black suspects.

The deaths have fuelled nationwide protests, bitter debate about racism and demands for structural reforms to police practices.

The city of New York announced a settlement with the Garners on Monday, nine months after the family took steps towards seeking US$75 million in damages.

Mr Garner's loved ones and civil rights campaigner Al Sharpton urged the United States federal government at a news conference to take up the case and to hold the white police officers accountable for his death.

"This does not represent justice. We call on the Department of Justice and (US Attorney-General) Loretta Lynch to deliver justice for my father," said daughter Erica Garner. "Justice is indictments and a fair trial."

Mr Garner's family and Mr Sharpton also called on supporters to join them in a public rally in New York on Saturday to commemorate the first anniversary of Mr Garner's death and to campaign for justice.

"They treated my husband like an animal," widow Esaw Garner said. "I think they need to do something about that ASAP, because we're losing our family members."

The 43-year-old was wrestled to the ground for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes on New York's Staten Island. Graphic cellphone footage, which went viral, showed the heavily built Mr Garner, who had asthma, complaining "I can't breathe" 11 times.

He lost consciousness at the scene and was pronounced dead after being taken to hospital.

Chokeholds are outlawed by New York police.

New York comptroller Scott Stringer said the settlement was not an admission of liability, but "in the best interests of all parties".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2015, with the headline 'Family of police-violence victim 'wants justice''. Print Edition | Subscribe