Booker demands answers from Barr on lack of charges in Garner killing

Booker demands answers from Barr on lack of charges in Garner killing
© Greg Nash

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker says he will ask Amy Coney Barrett if she will recuse herself from presidential election-related cases Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election The movement to reform animal agriculture has reached a tipping point MORE (D-N.J.) criticized the Justice Department’s decision not to charge a New York police officer in the 2014 death of Eric Garner in a letter to Attorney General William BarrBill BarrFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Why a backdoor to encrypted data is detrimental to cybersecurity and data integrity FBI official who worked with Mueller raised doubts about Russia investigation MORE.

In the letter, Booker cited news reports that Barr overruled attorneys with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division who recommended Officer Daniel Pantaleo be charged in Garner’s killing, which occurred exactly five years before.


Pantaleo placed Garner in a headlock in an attempt to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes, with a medical examiner later ruling Garner died of an asthma attack caused by a chokehold.

Booker, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Barr’s office for a detailed explanation of the “disturbing decision,” which was announced Tuesday.

“It’s difficult to put into words how deeply alarming it is that a NYPD officer used a violent and prohibited practice in arresting a man who was thought to be selling untaxed cigarettes,” Booker said in the letter. “That such a minor violation resulted in that man’s death should keep all of us up at night.”

“This is yet another disappointing sign that our criminal justice system is tragically broken. It’s why many people – particularly people of color – feel as if the system is stacked against them without hope of accountability, even when a violent and unnecessary homicide is captured on video, for all the world to see,” Booker added.

In a statement, the senator and presidential candidate said Barr’s decision was part of “a larger pattern of the Attorney General abdicating his responsibility to uphold the law,” also citing recent statements by Barr that there remained a legal pathway to including a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Several other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates also blasted the DOJ’s decision not to charge Pantaleo. Booker himself tweeted Tuesday that the decision was “wrong, unjust and painful reminder of just how broken our criminal justice system is.”