NEW YORK - A New York grand jury on Wednesday decided not to charge a white police officer in the choking death of a black man, days after a similar decision sparked renewed unrest in Missouri.
Eric Garner died after being placed in a chokehold by New York police Officer Daniel Pantaleo while being arrested on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island.
Graphic cellphone footage of the July 17 confrontation showed Garner, who has asthma, complaining "I can't breathe" after being bundled onto the ground by several police officers.
Pantaleo can be seen standing behind Garner and wrapping an arm around his neck. Police officials have said Garner was resisting arrest.
The 43-year-old father-of-six fell unconscious and was declared dead at a local hospital.
Chokeholds are outlawed by New York police after previous controversial incidents.
"After deliberation on the evidence presented in this matter, the grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment," Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan said in a statement.
Garner's death is one of a string of high-profile, racially-charged incidents in which white officers have been accused of using unreasonable force or being too quick to fire at black suspects.
'An American problem'
In brief comments following the grand jury decision, President Barack Obama addressed the inherent mistrust many residents have of police.
"We're seeing too many instances where people do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly," Obama said.
"In some cases, those may be misperceptions, but in some cases that's a reality, and it is incumbent upon all of us as Americans...that we recognise this is an American problem and not just a black problem or a brown problem."
The Aug 9 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white officer in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, sparked consecutive nights of violence and has become a rallying cry for African American communities across the country fed up with what they say is racially biased policing.