Five years ago, the “I can’t breathe” that Eric Garner dying repeated to the policemen who arrested him on Staten Island became the great cry of protest against police brutality. He said it 11 times before he died. His last words reverberated throughout the United States with massive protests that lasted weeks and triggered reforms in police tactics. This Monday the disciplinary process against Daniel Pantaleo, the agent accused of having strangled him with a prohibited key, started in New York.
The incident dates back to July 14, 2014. Garner, then 43 years old and weighing 160 kilos, was selling loose cigarettes on the street. He had already been arrested in the past for the same thing. He was unarmed. A video taken on a mobile phone shows how he discusses with two agents. “I’m tired. This is ending today, “you hear them say,” I wasn’t selling anything. ” When they reach his arm, the man resists.
Pantaleo approaches from behind and puts his arm around her neck as two other agents approach. It takes them about ten seconds to throw him to the ground. At that moment a fifth policeman appears, helping to put his head on the sidewalk while listening to Garner scream that he is short of breath. He died suffocated shortly after, leaving six children orphaned. The key he allegedly applied to her is prohibited by the patrol manual.
The autopsy confirmed a few weeks after Garner died from the compression he suffered on his neck and chest during the physical restraint that the police applied to him. They could also influence the serious health problems, due to being overweight. Agents, meanwhile, said he suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital. The final autopsy report was never released. But the NYPD’s internal investigation determined that the key was unlawful.
Both the police, through their lawyer, and the NYPD union denied this. The judgment that must determine whether Pantaleo can continue to serve the Blues is expected to last until the end of next week. About twenty witnesses are planning to testify during the process. If it is determined in the end that you used a prohibited choke key, Commissioner James O’Neill will then be able to decide whether you can keep your job or be expelled.
Fred Davie, president of the council that examines civil complaints, believes that the evidence presented is clear and that is why he anticipates that Daniel Pantaleo will be withdrawn from the police force when the process ends. This is what the mother, Gwen Carr, is asking for. The city already compensated the family in July 2015 with $ 5.9 million. But despite accepting the disbursement, they made it clear that the money was not enough for justice to be done.
Pantaleo’s attorney says his client will deny in his testimony that he applied the choke wrench and that his arm was on Garner’s neck when he yelled “I can’t breathe.” “Looking at the video frame by frame is very different from real time,” says lawyer Stuart London, he was simply making an arrest using the seat belt technique. “
The disciplinary process against Pantaleo was suspended so as not to interfere in an investigation by the Department of Justice. The police union calls for the officer to be treated fairly. He considers him innocent and they recall that the grand jury decided not to file criminal charges after reviewing the same evidence. A disciplinary trial is also scheduled for his supervisor, Kizzy Adonis.
The NYPD removed the badge and weapon from the agent during the investigation. Pantaleo’s lawyer insists that it is important to take into account all the factors that influenced Garner’s death, such as his health. Furthermore, he assures that the outcome would have been similar if he had escaped. “We believe that if he had not resisted arrest,” he says, “this would not have happened.” The mother responded by saying that they are “manipulators”.
Disciplinary council prosecutor Jonathan Fogel insisted in his first intervention in the trial that the police officer “explicitly” used a type of key that is prohibited and caused a “deadly cascade” that culminated in cardiac arrest and the death of Eric Garner. . “He did not deserve to have been sentenced to death by lazy men,” he concluded.