Staten Island DA on Eric Garner Case: “We've Got to Collect the Dots Before We Connect the Dots”

Staten Island’s top prosecutor said his office has assigned more people to the investigation into Eric Garner's fatal confrontation with NYPD officers than to any other case since he's been in office.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said in an interview with NBC 4 New York this week that he has assigned eight assistant district attorneys and 10 non-NYPD detectives to investigate the case, which has garnered national attention and led to cries for the arrests of the officers who were trying to cuff Garner in Tompkinsville July 17 for selling untaxed cigarettes.

The arrest included an apparent chokehold and eneded in 47-year-old's death. 

“In my 11 years in office, this is the biggest allocation of resources I’ve ever used in any matter,” Donovan said.

The medical examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, saying neck compression from a chokehold killed him. Asthma, heart disease and obesity all contributed to the 43-year-old’s death, the medical examiner determined.

Donovan said that the examiner’s ruling isn’t necessarily enough to get criminal indictments for the officers involved in the arrest, because a homicide ruling doesn’t necessarily mean a crime occurred.

“We have not reached a conclusion in the matter,” he said. “I've been saying all along, ‘We have to collect the dots before we can connect the dots.’"

He declined to detail when he might present evidence to a grand jury; he also declined to say what charges he might ask them to consider.

But Donovan told NBC 4 New York he has been clear and transparent with Garner’s family.

“We keep them informed and try to give the same timeframe,” he said. “What gets lost in all of this is that a mother lost her son. A wife lost her husband, and children lost their dad. We never lose sight of that."

Donovan also said that members of the NYPD, who’ve been accused of condoning the apparent chokehold, are entitled to the truth, not opinion.

“The police department deserves to be treated fairly as well,” he said. “They deserve answers too.”

Donovan also said he doesn’t plan to hand over the case to federal investigators and believes his office will get to the bottom of the case, regardless of the attention it has drawn.

“I have great faith in our justice system,” he said. “I have faith in my assistants and the detectives working on the case.”

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