by Enza Ferreri 12/13/14
As the protest over his death has reached London, we can say that what happened to Eric Garner, whatever his faults, is certainly, tragically terrible. If I had been a police officer I probably would have stopped holding him down when I heard “I can’t breathe!”, but then I’m not a police officer used to dealing with criminals lying all the time, including Garner himself who – as is shown in a distressing video that includes his altercation with the police before his arrest – had possibly been lying to the police until a few seconds earlier, when he was claiming he was doing nothing. It was probably a case of cry wolf.
And New York City policeman Daniel Pantaleo was supposed not to let go of Garner, it was his job not to do so.
Garner did not die from strangulation. According to city medical examiners, he was killed by neck compression, along with “the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police”. The cops were holding him down by sitting on him, with an arm around his neck, which contributed to, but did not cause, his death.
Contributing factors were his obesity and various ailments, including bronchial asthma, heart disease, hypertensive cardiovascular disease. Without them, as Rep. Peter King said, he would not have died.
After Garner was handcuffed and had passed out, the police did no Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Garner because, they say, he was still breathing, and it would be improper to do CPR on someone who was breathing on his own.
The police maintain that, before Garner passed out, there was no reason to believe that he was in serious condition, because they assumed that, if Garner was unable to breathe, he would also have been unable to speak. The medical examiner found no damage to Garner’s windpipe or neck bones.
He was put in an ambulance, where he suffered cardiac arrest, and was pronounced dead at the hospital about an hour later.
This is what Pat Buchanan says in “Racist Cops—or Liberal Slander?”:
Why would a Staten Island grand jury not indict Pantaleo for murder or manslaughter in the death of Eric Garner? In a word, intent. Did Pantaleo intend to kill Eric Garner when he arrived on the scene? Did Pantaleo arrive intent on injuring Eric Garner? No and no.
Pantaleo was there to arrest Garner, and if he resisted, to subdue him and then arrest him. That was his job. Did he use a chokehold, which the NYPD bans, or a takedown method taught at the police academy, as his lawyer contends? That is for the NYPD to decide. The grand jury, viewing the video, decided that the way Pantaleo brought down Garner was not done with any criminal intent to kill or injure him, but to arrest him.
Garner’s death, they decided, was accidental, caused by Pantaleo and the other NYPD cops who did not intend his injury or death, with Garner’s asthma and heart disease as contributing factors. Now that grand jury decision may be wrong, but does it justify wild allegations of “racist cops” getting away with “murder”?
This reflexive rush to judgment happens again and again.
I think that the New York case – Garner’s death – is more nuanced than the Ferguson one, but the grand juries’ decisions were right in both cases.
Given the outrage that dominates much of the mainstream media over a grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, here are 11 crucial facts about the Eric Garner case that the media are not going to tell you:
1. There is no doubt that Garner was resisting an arrest for illegally selling untaxed cigarettes. Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik put it succinctly: “You cannot resist arrest. If Eric Garner did not resist arrest, the outcome of this case would have been very different,” he told Newsmax. “He wouldn’t be dead today.
“Regardless of what the arrest was for, the officers don’t have the ability to say, ‘Well, this is a minor arrest, so we’re just going to ignore you.'”
2. The video of the July 17 incident clearly shows Garner, an African-American, swatting away the arms of a white officer seeking to take him into custody, telling him: “Don’t touch me!”
3. Garner, 43, had history of more than 30 arrests dating back to 1980, on charges including assault and grand larceny.
4. At the time of his death, Garner was out on bail after being charged with illegally selling cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession and false impersonation.
5. The chokehold that Patrolman Daniel Pantaleo put on Garner was reported to have contributed to his death. But Garner, who was 6-foot-3 and weighed 350 pounds, suffered from a number of health problems, including heart disease, severe asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sleep apnea. Pantaleo’s attorney and police union officials argued that Garner’s poor health was the main cause of his death.
6. Garner did not die at the scene of the confrontation. He suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance taking him to the hospital and was pronounced dead about an hour later.
7. Much has been made of the fact that the use of chokeholds by police is prohibited in New York City. But officers reportedly still use them. Between 2009 and mid-2014, the Civilian Complaint Review Board received 1,128 chokehold allegations.
Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said: “It was clear that the officer’s intention was to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed, and that he used the takedown technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused.”
8. The grand jury began hearing the case on Sept. 29 and did not reach a decision until Wednesday, so there is much testimony that was presented that has not been made public.
9. The 23-member grand jury included nine non-white jurors.
10. In order to find Officer Pantaleo criminally negligent, the grand jury would have had to determine that he knew there was a “substantial risk” that Garner would have died due to the takedown.
11. Less than a month after Garner’s death, Ramsey Orta, who shot the much-viewed videotape of the encounter, was indicted on weapons charges. Police alleged that Orta had slipped a .25-caliber handgun into a teenage accomplice’s waistband outside a New York hotel.
Enza Ferreri is an Italian-born, London-based Philosophy graduate, author, and journalist. She has been a London correspondent for several Italian magazines and newspapers, including Panorama, L’Espresso, La Repubblica. She is in the Executive Council of the UK’s party Liberty GB.
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