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NYC reaches $5.9 million settlement in chokehold death of Eric Garner

In this July 8, 2015 file photo, Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, right, joins women whose families members were killed by police officers after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that puts the office of the state attorney general in charge of investigating killings by police. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

NEW YORK  — The family of a black man who died after being placed in a white police officer’s chokehold reached a $5.9 million settlement with the city on Monday, days before the anniversary of his death.

Eric Garner’s family in October filed a notice of claim, the first step in filing a lawsuit against the city, asking for $75 million.

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Garner, who was 43, was stopped last July 17 outside a Staten Island convenience store because police officers believed he was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker shows Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.

An officer, Daniel Pantaleo, placed his arm around Garner’s neck to take him to the ground. Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping “I can’t breathe!” 11 times before he loses consciousness. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

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The city medical examiner found that the police chokehold contributed to Garner’s death. But a grand jury declined to indict the officer in the death. A federal probe is ongoing.

Chokeholds are banned by New York Police Department policy. Pantaleo says he used a legal takedown maneuver, not a chokehold.

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

While the city has a legal department that fields lawsuits, the comptroller’s office also can settle claims. 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,” Stringer said.

The city did not admit to any liability.

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Longtime civil rights attorney Jonathan Moore, the family’s lawyer, said there also was a settlement with the Richmond University Medical Center, which responded to the scene. That settlement is confidential. He said there would be a press conference Tuesday with the Rev. Al Sharpton and the family.

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Last month, the comptroller’s office agreed to pay $6.25 million 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 vacationing at Disney World. A $6.4 million settlement was reached with a man exonerated in the 1990 killing of a rabbi.

Stringer also agreed to a $2.25 million payout to the family of a mentally ill inmate who died in a Rikers Island jail cell that sweltered to 101 degrees because of a malfunctioning heating system, and he helped put together a $17 million settlement in the case of three half-brothers who spent a combined 60 years in prison before their convictions were thrown out.

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