CommunityThe Dissenter

Video of NYPD Cop Killing Eric Garner Was Not Enough to Convince Grand Jury Black Lives Matter

Eric Garner

The Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict white New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner, an unarmed black father of six children, is a savage reminder that there are certain lives in the United States that do not matter. Garner’s death was captured on video and showed Pantaleo employing an illegal chokehold that made it impossible for Garner to breathe. The brutality captured on video apparently did not move grand jury members to hold Pantaleo accountable.

Garner was approached by NYPD officers on July 17 because he was allegedly selling “untaxed cigarettes.” Video shows Garner pleading with police to leave him alone and stop harassing him. Garner had previously been arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses for selling loose cigarettes. He insisted he was not selling anything and was minding his own business.

As he urges police to let him be, Garner, who was 6-foot-4 and weighed around 400 pounds, is wrestled to the ground by officers including Pantaleo who puts him in an illegal chokehold. Garner is crying out, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” as Pantaleo pushes his leg into Garner’s head, which is now on the sidewalk. “I can’t breathe,” he cries again.

Another clip of Garner’s death shows what the New York Daily News described as a “defenseless dad, lying handcuffed and unresponsive on a sidewalk.” He receives “zero medical help from cops” who instead empty his pockets. The only sign of humanity from officers as eight cops stand nearby is one officer who says, “C’mon guy,” and, “Breathe in, breathe out.” But Garner’s eyes are closed and he is not moving at all.

A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and found he had been killed by a chokehold.

President Barack Obama and other officials from all levels of government would have citizens, especially those who aren’t white, believe that providing “up to 50,000 additional body-worn cameras for law enforcement” will lead to change, where police are held accountable.

Ashley Yates of Millennial Activists United (MAU), who was part of a meeting with Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials on Monday, said during a press conference call that body cameras would not save black lives from police brutality or from being denied justice. In the case of the young black man, John Crawford, there was surveillance video of a cop gunning him down as he held an unloaded air rifle in the middle of a Walmart. Authorities still refused to indict the officer. It is possible this happens again in the case of Tamir Rice, whose deaths at the hands of police was also captured on video.

T-DubbO, a St. Louis hip-hop artist, who was also part of the Monday meeting, put it this way, “A camera is only going to provide a game tape of me being murdered. They constantly look at us as demons. The simple phrase for them to get out of a murder is to say they’re afraid.”

While it is unknown how Pantaleo defended himself when testifying before the grand jury, the result makes it reasonable to infer that Pantaleo’s narrative of what could be seen on video was more important to the grand jury than the video itself. The police officer’s story superseded what had happened to this black father.

Garner was said to suffer from asthma. One can imagine Pantaleo blaming the victim, maintaining Garner would not have died if he did not have asthma.

Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch stated after the announced decision that Pantaleo had done “nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed and that he used the take-down technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused.”

But, even NYPD Chief Bill Bratton, the architect of the “broken windows” policing that likely led officers to aggressively interrogate Garner about whether he was selling loose cigarettes, declared after Garner’s death, “Chokeholds are, in fact, prohibited by the New York City Police Department, as they are, in fact, by most police departments in the United States.”

Perhaps, the grand jury became convinced that what they saw was not a chokehold but something else. Maybe Pantaleo or other officers explained that what members were seeing was not the use of a banned tactic.

Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren stated in response to the decision, “How can anyone in the community have faith in the system now? First Ferguson, now Staten Island. The grand jury’s failure to indict sends the clear message that black lives don’t matter.”

“But they do. It’s bad enough that broken windows policing over something as harmless as selling untaxed cigarettes led to this tragic killing; it’s even worse when the officer responsible – who was caught on tape using a prohibited chokehold, no less – is not held accountable. The problem isn’t one officer, though: it’s systemic,” Warren added.

For the moment, the entire grand jury process that unfolded over the past months will remain shrouded in secrecy.

Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan Jr. explained in a statement, “Regarding comments that I can or cannot make, unlike other jurisdictions that have statutes that permit a district attorney to disclose specific details regarding what took place during a grand jury proceeding, New york does not permit a district attorney to engage in such disclosure. Rather, only upon a showing of a compelling and particularized need for access can disclosure of grand jury information, limited as it may be, be made in a public forum.”

Given the level of protest that will follow this decision, is there not a “compelling and particularized need” for disclosing specific details?

Donovan did indicate that an application for a court order had been made for the release of specific information and that application was under consideration.

The lack of transparency stands in stark contrast to the case of white police officer Darren Wilson, who gunned down unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson. Even though St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch threw the case and Wilson was not indicted, he immediately released transcripts and other documents from the grand jury.

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

Video of NYPD Cop Killing Eric Garner Was Not Enough to Convince Grand Jury Black Lives Matter

Eric Garner

The Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict white New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner, an unarmed black father of six children, is a savage reminder that there are certain lives in the United States that do not matter. Garner’s death was captured on video and showed Pantaleo employing an illegal chokehold that made it impossible for Garner to breathe. The brutality captured on video apparently did not move grand jury members to hold Pantaleo accountable.

Garner was approached by NYPD officers on July 17 because he was allegedly selling “untaxed cigarettes.” Video shows Garner pleading with police to leave him alone and stop harassing him. Garner had previously been arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses for selling loose cigarettes. He insisted he was not selling anything and was minding his own business.

As he urges police to let him be, Garner, who was 6-foot-4 and weighed around 400 pounds, is wrestled to the ground by officers including Pantaleo who puts him in an illegal chokehold. Garner is crying out, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” as Pantaleo pushes his leg into Garner’s head, which is now on the sidewalk. “I can’t breathe,” he cries again.

Another clip of Garner’s death shows what the New York Daily News described as a “defenseless dad, lying handcuffed and unresponsive on a sidewalk.” He receives “zero medical help from cops” who instead empty his pockets. The only sign of humanity from officers as eight cops stand nearby is one officer who says, “C’mon guy,” and, “Breathe in, breathe out.” But Garner’s eyes are closed and he is not moving at all.

A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and found he had been killed by a chokehold.

President Barack Obama and other officials from all levels of government would have citizens, especially those who aren’t white, believe that providing “up to 50,000 additional body-worn cameras for law enforcement” will lead to change, where police are held accountable.

Ashley Yates of Millennial Activists United (MAU), who was part of a meeting with Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials on Monday, said during a press conference call that body cameras would not save black lives from police brutality or from being denied justice. In the case of the young black man, John Crawford, there was surveillance video of a cop gunning him down as he held an unloaded air rifle in the middle of a Walmart. Authorities still refused to indict the officer. It is possible this happens again in the case of Tamir Rice, whose deaths at the hands of police was also captured on video.

T-DubbO, a St. Louis hip-hop artist, who was also part of the Monday meeting, put it this way, “A camera is only going to provide a game tape of me being murdered. They constantly look at us as demons. The simple phrase for them to get out of a murder is to say they’re afraid.”

Previous post

Boston Bombing News: Matanov, McPhee, and media leaks

Next post

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issues a stay of execution for Scott Panetti

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

58 Comments