NEW YORK, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- A 23-member grand jury in Staten Island chose not to indict a New York City police officer for the choking death of an asthmatic man in a botched sidewalk detention, setting off city-wide protests.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo grabbed Eric Garner, 43, around the neck from behind to restrain him during an incident in July. Plainclothes officers had confronted Garner, accusing him of selling untaxed cigarettes, though the father of six denied the accusation.
A witness captured video of Pantaleo coming behind Garner and putting him in a chokehold without asking for Garner's cooperation. Garner asked the officer to release him multiple times, saying "I can't breathe."
The New York Police Department's handbook says officers may not use chokeholds to restrain people, and Pantaleo was stripped of his badge and gun, and placed on desk duty. Garner's death -- which the NYPD said was due to a heart attack -- was ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.
On Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury chose not to bring any criminal charges against Pantaleo after listening to months of testimony.
It's not clear if and when Pantaleo will return to patrol duties, and he could still face punishment and possible termination from the force.
The decision came a little more than a week after a grand jury in St. Louis County, Mo., decided not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
That announcement sparked violent protests that resulted in several fires, looting and the use of smoke canisters by police to clear the crowds. Demonstrators accused police of unnecessary aggression toward black individuals.
Crowds gathered in locations throughout the city — Times Square, Staten Island, Grand Central Station — chanting "This stops today" or "I can't breathe," Garner's last words. The demonstrations were largely peaceful with few arrests compared to the more violent reaction in Ferguson.
Prior to the announcement, Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, told the New York Daily News she hoped for charges to be brought against Pantaleo.
"I'm just hoping that we get the right decision, so we can get justice for him, and his death will not be in vain," she said.
Garner's family has filed a $75 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the NYPD.