The smear campaign has already began, while NY police and their union officials covertly and deliberately try to tarnish and negatively impact the character of 43-year-old Eric Garner who died during a confrontation with cops in Staten Island. All in an attempt to overshadow what the whole entire world has seen, cops choking a black man to death and allowing him to lay on the ground unassisted for nearly eight minutes until he died. If you listen to the police’ version, Garner is depicted as a scumbag criminal who resisted arrest, and was responsible for causing his own death. His crime? Cops allege that he sold illegal (untaxed) loose cigarettes. It’s a crime almost guaranteed not to make the six o’clock news, and a petty offense most cops wouldn’t even deem worth writing a criminal citation for. Now suddenly, there are rumors circulating around that Eric Garner had a history of confrontations with NYPD regarding the untaxed cigarette solicitation beef that subsequently led to his death. Only this time the entire ordeal was captured on a video for all to see.
In the cellphone video recorded by an eyewitness, dialogue from cops to Garner are barely audible, but Garner is clearly agitated, and reveals that cops are accusing him of selling something. He is also seen describing what he calls harassment by police, who he says continuously stops him. Garner practically begs cops to leave him alone. Although Garner was visibly agitated, he made no gestures which could be interpreted as acts of aggression toward the police or anyone else. The video clearly shows that barring Garner’s claims that cops suspected him of illegal solicitation, no probable cause for his arrest existed. The cops never asked for his identification nor conducted a pre-arrest pat down or search of Garner. For some reason the cops simply defaulted to exacting an arrest of him midway of their field interview. More importantly, cops never attempted to deescalate the tension that existed which caused Garner to be highly agitated. If sufficient cause existed for his arrest, calming Garner down should have been paramount to avoid a physical confrontation with him and police personnel during the process of restraining him with handcuffs. It’s just not smart to attempt to take down a 300 plus pound man in such a highly agitated state. Police are trained to insure their own personal safety as well as that of the public while making an arrest.
The fact that Garner posed no threat to police nor the public during the incident, highlights how cops clearly were the aggressors who were looking for a confrontation. Instead of calming Garner down the cops honed in on him, and when Garner lifted his arms in resistance, a NYPD officer put Garner in a choke hold and forced him down on to the ground. Eric Garner who is asthmatic can clearly be heard stating “I can’t breathe” at least five times, but an officer is seen continuously applying the choke hold, and completely ignoring Garner’s statements of distress revealing his inability to breathe. Garner is eventually placed in handcuffs, and appeared to be unconscious and non responsive on the ground. No NYPD officer attempted to ascertain whether or not Garner could actually breathe (one officer told an onlooker that “he’s breathing”), attempt CPR on Garner, nor any other form of first aid which they are trained and required to perform. In fact, a close and thorough observation of the entire video reveals that cops may have realized that Garner wasn’t breathing at all, and began to conduct damage control and limit the public’s ability to view the scene. Various police officials are seen and overheard directing the public back away from the area where Garner was taken to the ground by cops. None of the onlookers were close enough to impede or disrupt cop’s ability to tend to Garner, but for those familiar with police tactics in New York, it was clear that Garner was in very serious trouble as he lay on the ground.
The eyewitness’ video lasted about seven minutes and thirty five seconds (7:35). The EMS arrived four minutes into the incident, and of the four paramedics who responded to the scene, only one of them attempted to ascertain Garner’s health status. She simply took his pulse and advised cops that he was breathing. Police and EMS attempt to arouse Garner by asking him questions and giving him commands, but as Garner lay motionless on the ground, it’s highly doubtful that the EMS official’s claim that he was breathing, was in fact true. On the video Garner appeared to be unconscious, unresponsive, and not breathing at all. None of the trained EMS officials on the scene attempted to administer CPR or even give Garner oxygen. That was a tremendous error and may have been the deciding element of this entire tragic case that resulted in Eric Garner’s death. The four EMS workers have since been placed on administrative suspension without pay, and the cop who put Garner in a choke hold had his badge and gun taken, while he was placed on routine desk duty. Although it appears that swift action was taken against the trained EMS workers and one NYPD police officer, there is still concern that the death of Eric Garner will slip under the radar as many cop involved deaths do within the NYPD. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who appeared to put Garner in the chokehold, had to turn in his badge and his gun. Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, called that decision by the police department “completely unwarranted” and “absolutely wrong” in a statement.
Public concern largely centers around recent reports that officer Pantaleo has had complaints of misconduct filed against him on seven separate occasions in his 8 year stint with the NYPD. Pantaleo was actually sued in two of those incidents for violating the civil rights of people he has arrested, one in which NYPD paid $30,000.00 to settle a suit. In the first case, two men — Darren Collins and Tommy Rice said that Pantaleo and another officer strip-searched them on a Staten Island street, in the middle of the day, after pulling them over. According to the 2012 lawsuit, Pantaleo and his colleague handcuffed Collins and Rice and then “pulled down the plaintiffs’ pants and underwear, and touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence.” In the first case, two men — Darren Collins and Tommy Rice — said that Pantaleo and another officer strip-searched them on a Staten Island street, in the middle of the day, after pulling them over. According to the 2012 lawsuit, Pantaleo and his colleague handcuffed Collins and Rice and then “pulled down the plaintiffs’ pants and underwear, and touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence.”
The details of the second lawsuit, which is still pending, are a bit unclear. The Advance reports that a man named Rylawn Walker sued Pantaleo this past winter for arresting him even though he was “committing no crime at that time and was not acting in a suspicious manner.” Walker, who faced marijuana charges that were later thrown out, also claims that Pantaleo “misrepresented facts in the police reports and other documents that the plaintiff had committed offenses when in fact this was not true.” The veteran cop’s jacket paints a disturbing image of a rogue police officer who has integrity issues. Pantaleo’s alleged tendency to be dishonest will probably be less relevant in the Garner case, since there is video of the arrest. Still, the odds of Pantaleo losing his job — or even getting suspended from it — appear slim, at least based on the NYPD’s history of handling chokehold complaints. However, those police disciplinary practices were under Commissioner Ray Kelly’s watch during the Mike Bloomberg administration.
With a new Chief of Police and a new mayor who ran on an election campaign platform to overhaul the NYPD (primarily due to “stop and frisk”), the jury is still out in the eyes of public opinion, intensely waiting to seen if the old NYPD tactics will actually change. Sadly, Garner’e death is like a scene from Sipke Lee’s epic film “Do The Right Thing,” which depicts NYPD cops choking character “Radio Raheem” to death on a New York street over a boom box radio. If NYPD’s response is any indication as how this will all play out, it’ doesn’t look very promising for the family and friends of Eric Garner. Initial NYPD reports indicate that Garner wasn’t in much distress, despite the video recording clearly capturing Garner telling cops that he couldn’t breathe. Police officials even omitted the fact that officer Pantaleo had used a chokehold on Garner during his arrest. The city’s medical examiner hasn’t even made a final determination as to how Eric Garner died.
Many believe that the entire case could go in any direction considering that it’s the NYPD involved in this case, it just depends on how the District Attorney wants to spin the case. If Pantaleo walks with no serious discipline in this case, it sets the stage for a new brand of injustice, as cops will now be able to kill private citizens and have those actions captured on recording, and still face no serious reprisals from departmental brass when clear violations of departmental policy have been established. Based on his past history, officer Pantaleo is a dirty cop and the NYPD new about it, and allowed him to remain on the force. Now a man is dead, and the video recording erases all possibilities for Pantaleo to lie his way out of this one. He was caught on tape using an illegal chokehold on a man that had long since been banned by NYPD. Many are curious to see what excuse or rationalization NYPD uses to keep him on the force now. What a tragic story!
The People’s Champion
I’m David Adams