BLACK VOICES

New York City Pays Eric Garner's Family $5.9 Million Settlement To Avoid Lawsuit

New York City has settled a claim with Eric Garner's family for $5.9 million in an effort by city officials to head off a full-blown lawsuit.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Monday announced the pre-litigation settlement in relation to the 43-year-old's chokehold death in NYPD custody last July. The move is a strategy by Stringer's office to save taxpayers the expense of a costly trial and provide closure to the victims' families, according to The New York Times.

Earlier on Monday, several outlets reported that Garner's widow had previously rejected a $5 million settlement offer from the city.

Garner's family was originally seeking $75 million in damages when they filed a notice of claim -- the first step in filing a lawsuit against the city -- last October.

Garner's death sparked national outrage and a debate on the policing of black citizens after cellphone video captured by a bystander showed NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo placing Garner in a chokehold while other officers wrestled him to the ground. Garner's last words -- "I can't breathe!" -- became a rallying cry among civil rights activist demanding police accountability and changes to police use of force against unarmed civilians.

Garner's death was later ruled a homicide.

Stringer called the settlement "in the best interest of all parties." While noting the city has not admitted liability in Garner's death, Stringer said in a statement: "I believe that we have reached an agreement that acknowledges the tragic nature of Mr. Garner’s death while balancing my office’s fiscal responsibility to the City.”

The city's decision comes just days before it hit a deadline activating the lawsuit.

A grand jury previously voted not to indict Pantaleo, though the Justice Department has an open inquiry into whether he violated Garner's civil rights.

“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," Stringer said. "It forced us to examine the state of race relations, and the relationship between our police force and the people they serve."

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