Report: Lawyer details what cop in chokehold death told grand jury

The lawyer for a New York City police officer who eluded indictment in the chokehold death of Eric Garner said the officer told the grand jury that he tried to disengage from Garner "as quick as he could" - an account that seems to contradict a videotape of the confrontation.

Daniel Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart London, told the New York Times that the officer testified that he was not trying to use a chokehold on Garner but that he was employing a wrestling move he was taught at the Police Academy.

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London said that the officer acknowledged to the grand jury that he heard Eric Garner, who had asthma, repeatedly say that he couldn't breathe during the confrontation. Pantaleo testified that he tried to get off Garner "as quick as he could," London said. However, the video of the encounter shows that after the men fell to the ground, Pantaleo's hands appear to remain gripped around Garner's neck.

Garner, 43, died as officers were attempting to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes on the street in July. The video, shot by an onlooker and widely viewed on the Internet, showed Garner telling a group of police officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him. Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner's neck in what appeared to be a chokehold, which is banned under the New York Police Department's policy.

London told the Times that Pantaleo testified that his intent was to hook his arm under Garner's arm and secure his torso in order "tip the person so they lose their balance and go to the ground." The officer's arms moved up to Garner's neck as the two struggled in front of a storefront window.

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"He testified that the glass buckled while Garner was up against him and he was against the glass," London told the Times. "He was concerned that both he and Garner would go through that glass."

London told the newspaper that Pantaleo knew he was being videotaped and "it didn't bother him" since he "knew he was committing no misconduct."

CBS News has confirmed that Pantaleo was named in at least two complaint lawsuits -- one is still pending and the first was settled earlier this year.

On Thursday, a New York City judge released limited details of the grand jury proceedings in the Garner case, including that four videos were shown and 50 witnesses were heard.

Civil rights leaders decried the decision not to charge Pantaleo and announced plans for a march and a summit on racial justice in Washington later this month.

Garner's case - combined with the decision by a grand jury last week not to charge the white officer who shot and killed unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri - stirred a national conversation about race, police training and the grand jury process.

Amid the tensions, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder presented the results of an investigation into police in the Ohio city of Cleveland, prompted by several highly publicized police encounters, some of them deadly. The Justice Department report said Cleveland police use excessive and unnecessary force far too often, are poorly trained in tactics and firearm use and endanger the public and their fellow officers with their recklessness.

The results of the investigation came just one week after hundreds of people blocked a Cleveland freeway to protest the Garner and Brown killings, along with the fatal shooting of a black 12-year-old boy by a white officer outside a Cleveland recreation center. Police said the officer thought the boy was holding a firearm, but he actually had an airsoft gun that shoots nonlethal plastic pellets.

In New York, National Urban League President Marc Morial said the lack of an indictment in Garner's death was "a travesty of justice."

About 20 civil rights leaders met behind closed doors Thursday at the New York City headquarters of Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network. Sharpton, one of the country's most outspoken civil rights activists, said a civil rights summit will be held following a Dec. 13 march in Washington.

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Thousands of people protested in New York, chanting and blocking traffic, after the grand jury decided not to bring charges against Pantaleo. The decision Wednesday came a week after a Missouri grand jury made a similar ruling in Brown's case.

Police said 83 people were arrested in New York, mostly on disorderly conduct charges.

Pantaleo's lawyer and police union officials argued that the grand jury got it right, saying that the officer used an authorized takedown move - not a banned chokehold - against a man who was resisting arrest. And they said Garner's poor health was the main cause of his death. The medical examiner ruled that the chokehold contributed to the death.

On Thursday morning, yet another case returned to the mix: A white former police chief in South Carolina was charged with murder in the 2011 shooting death of an unarmed black man after an argument at a town hall meeting. The officer's lawyer accused prosecutors of taking advantage of national outrage toward police to get the indictment.

And in Los Angeles, police Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday that three officer violated deadly-force rules when they shot an unarmed man last year on live television after a high-speed chase. The chief will now have to decide what punishment, if any, to give the officers who have been relieved of duty since the December 2013 shooting.

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Some legal experts said the Garner case, like the one in Ferguson, raised concerns about the influence local prosecutors have over the process of charging the police officers they work with on a daily basis.

Ekow N. Yankah, a professor at New York's Cardozo School of Law, said: "It is hard to understand how a jury doesn't see any probable cause that a crime has been committed or is being committed when looking at that video, especially."

Appearing on "CBS This Morning" Thursday, Garner's widow, Esaw, demanded justice.

"Somebody needs to pay," she said.

Holder, the attorney general, has said federal prosecutors will conduct their own investigation of Garner's death.