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Family to discuss $5.9 million settlement in chokehold death

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In this July 8 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.

NEW YORK » The family of a black man who died after being placed in a white police officer’s chokehold is holding a press conference to discuss a $5.9 million settlement it reached with the city days before the anniversary of his death.

Tuesday’s news conference will be held with attorneys for the family of Eric Garner and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who also will call on New Yorkers to attend a Saturday rally in honor of Garner and other victims of police misconduct.

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

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.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed his arm around Garner’s neck to take him down. Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping "I can’t breathe!" 11 times before losing consciousness. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

The city medical examiner found 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 known as a seatbelt, not a chokehold.

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 any liability.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that hopefully Garner’s family "can find some peace and finality" from the settlement. He was scheduled to speak Tuesday at a church memorial service in Garner’s honor.

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, and there was no one available at the hospital to comment.

Sharpton said the settlement to the family was deserved but didn’t resolve the larger questions around policing and minorities.

"We did not march and build a movement just to get money," he said.

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