New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday he won't "second-guess" a grand jury's decision not to indict a New York City police officer whose use of a chokehold contributed to the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner in July.
"As someone who led a prosecuting office for seven years, before I became governor, one of the things I learned is, that you never know all of the things that a grand jury knows unless you're in that grand jury working with them," Christie told reporters during a trade mission to Canada, according to the New Jersey Star Ledger.
"When I was U.S. Attorney, I used to really, really dislike when politicians who didn't know a tenth of what the prosecutors and the grand jury knew would second guess their work purely for political reasons or out of ignorance," he added. "So I'm not going to second-guess that work."
Christie, who's mulling a 2016 presidential bid, did not say whether he'd viewed a video that captured the altercation between Garner, who was unarmed and black, and police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is white.
The decision not to indict, announced on Wednesday, touched off heated nationwide protests against racism in the criminal justice system. The grand jury's decision came less than two weeks after a grand jury in Missouri declined to indict a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.
Attorney General Eric Holder has announced the Justice Department is probing those incidents for possible civil rights violations.
In remarks on Wednesday, President Obama stressed the need to improve trust between law enforcement and minority communities, citing "too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly, and in some cases those may be misperceptions, but in some cases that's a reality."
"This is an American problem and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a Native American problem," he said. "When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that's a problem."
Other potential 2016 candidates have weighed in as well. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said Wednesday on MSNBC that it's hard to "not be horrified" by the video of Garner being choked. Paul also blamed the imposition of cigarette taxes for playing a role (the cops confronted Garner on suspicions that he was selling loose cigarettes and evading taxes on the items.)
"For someone to die over breaking that law, there really is no excuse for it," Paul said. "But I do blame the politicians. We put our police in a difficult situation with bad laws."
And the likely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2016, Hillary Clinton, spoke more generally on Thursday about the need to confront "hard truths about race and justice."
"I'm very pleased that the DOJ will be investigating what happened in Ferguson or Staten Island," she said. "Those families and those communities and our country deserve a full and fair accounting, as well as whatever substantive reforms are necessary to ensure equality, justice, and respect for every citizen."