New York City reached a settlement with the family of Eric Garner on Monday, agreeing to pay $5.9 million to resolve a wrongful-death claim over his killing by the police on Staten Island last July, the city comptroller and a lawyer for the family said.
The agreement, reached a few days before the anniversary of Mr. Garner’s death, headed off one legal battle even as a federal inquiry into the killing and several others at the state and local level remain open and could provide a further accounting of how he died.
Still, the settlement was a pivotal moment in a case that has engulfed the city since the afternoon of July 17, 2014, when two officers approached Mr. Garner as he stood unarmed on a sidewalk, and accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes. One of the officers used a chokehold — prohibited by the Police Department — to subdue him, and that was cited by the medical examiner as a cause of Mr. Garner’s death.
Mr. Garner’s final words — “I can’t breathe” — repeated 11 times, became a national rallying cry. A Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who used the chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo, fueled weeks of demonstrations. The protests eased after two police officers in Brooklyn were fatally shot in December by a man who suggested he was avenging the deaths of Mr. Garner and Mr. Brown.
The killings of the officers shook the city anew, deepening tensions between the police and Mayor Bill de Blasio and slowing a push to enact a host of criminal justice reforms. Last year, Mr. Garner’s relatives, including his widow, Esaw Garner, and his mother, Gwen Carr, filed a notice of claim — a procedural step that must precede a lawsuit — against the city. In the notice, they said were seeking $75 million in damages. Since then, the family has been in talks with the comptroller’s office.
“Mr. Garner’s death is a touchstone in our city’s history and in the history of the entire nation,” the comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, said in a telephone interview late on Monday. “Financial compensation is certainly not everything, and it can’t bring Mr. Garner back. But it is our way of creating balance and giving a family a certain closure.”
The family had given the city a deadline of Friday, the anniversary of the death, to come to an agreement or the relatives would move forward with the lawsuit, Jonathan C. Moore, the lawyer for Mr. Garner’s family, said. (In wrongful-death cases, the claimants have two years to file suit.)
The agreement came after months of halting negotiations. It was among the biggest settlements reached so far as part of a strategy by Mr. Stringer, to settle major civil rights claims even before a lawsuit is filed. He has said the aim is to save taxpayers the expense, and families the pain, of a long legal process. He said five lawyers from his office were involved in the negotiations, which ended on Monday.
But the resolution of the legal claim against the city did not provide any greater clarity on the actions of the officers that day or on the policing strategies that have come under criticism in the year that has followed.
The relatives of Mr. Garner, along with Mr. Moore, are expected to discuss the settlement at a news conference scheduled for Tuesday morning at the Harlem offices of the National Action Network, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
On Saturday, Mr. Garner’s family is expected to lead a rally outside the Brooklyn offices of the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York to call for a federal case to be brought against the officers involved in Mr. Garner’s death.