Eric Garner's Death: How a Video Undermines a Police Narrative

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The NYPD's internal report about the death of Eric Garner explained what happened through the eyes of the officers at the scene. As the Daily News first reported, one officer said that Garner "resisted arrest" while being apprehended in Staten Island last week. He was "struggling" with Officers Justin Damico and Daniel Pantaleo, who "attempted to place him in handcuffs."

See Also: De Blasio Addresses Death of Man Strangled by NYPD Officer

Other officers gathered to help "[maintain] control of him." Garner "did not appear to be in great distress." One officer "believed she heard the perpetrator state that he was having difficulty breathing." But though Garner at some point "became unresponsive," he "was observed to be breathing." His "condition did not seem serious and... he did not appear to get worse."

Only "when he was placed on the stretcher by EMTs," did Garner go "into cardiac arrest."

There was no mention of a chokehold.

And on Tuesday, the Medical Examiner's Office announced that an autopsy did not explain the cause of Garner's death. "Further tests need to be conducted before determining a manner and cause of death," a spokesperson told the Daily News.

And that's where it might have stood. A 43-year-old man resisted arrest. He was known to sell untaxed cigarettes. He was known to have asthma. He became unconscious after his struggle. He later died. And the autopsy offers no reason to dispute that narrative.

It's a narrative we've heard before. On September 17, 25-year-old Barrington Williams died in police custody. According to the NYPD, officers approached him because they suspected that he was selling MetroCard swipes at the East 161st Street B/D subway station in the Bronx. Williams ran from the officers, according to the officers.

See Also: Barrington Williams Died From Asthma Attack After Police Chase, Medical Examiner Says

They caught him and arrested him. At some point during the arrest, Williams became "unconscious and unresponsive." The autopsy was inconclusive. Two months later, after more testing, the Medical Examiner's Officer ruled that Williams had died of a severe asthma attack.

And that was that. There was no evidence to dispute that simple narrative, no evidence to add to it. Few, if any, remember Barrington Williams's death.

And maybe few would have remembered Eric Garner's death.

But there was a video -- a 13-minute clip that showed Garner asking two officers why they kept harassing him; that showed an officer, Daniel Pantaleo, sliding behind Garner and wrapping his arm around his neck and squeezing. A chokehold. Garner dropped to the ground and the officer kept squeezing. Garner -- as we all heard in the video -- said, "I can't breath, I can't breath," yet the officer kept squeezing. Other officers gathered. One pushed Garner's head into the concrete. Pantaleo kept squeezing. Soon Garner's body appeared lifeless and the police officials in suits were shooing away the bystanders.

Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha





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12 comments
Linda
Linda

Why is it whenever a person of color is killed in this country, that person's background is always delved into and negative things such as one having a police record are revealed?

When Caucasian's are killed--it is alway, "he or she was such an angel and never did anything wrong."

There is a definite double standard in the value of lives in Amerykah!

Black folks lives are not work a cent, whereas White's lives are!!!!

What about this cop who choked Mr. Garner having a bad record with several complaints against him--don't hear much from the media about that!!!!! 

Leah Roberts
Leah Roberts

What does his rap sheet have to do with the fact that he DIED on the hands of NYPD.....?

Markus Aurelius
Markus Aurelius

because it doesn't justify the pigs choking him and putting weight on his head when he was pleading that he couldn't breathe

anon
anon

NYC is a shithole in reverse. If anyone deserves to be choked into oblivion it's a random hedge fund manager standing outside of Manga blabbing on his cell phone. Glad I left twelve years ago. No soul to the place anymore.

anon
anon

What a bunch of fucking scumbags. You're black and your life does not mean shit. That is the message. Period. End of story. Be better if these cowards went down to Wall Street and did this to some of the vampires in suits, but that will never happen, even though it should. If anyone deserves to be choked into oblivion it's a random hedge fund manager, not some dude on the street whose petty crimes amount to absolutely nothing. Glad I left NYC ten years ago. The city has lost its soul.

ctpierce
ctpierce

do you want to save a life? Start off your articles about police brutality with some solid legal advice. If you are worried about your street cred say its what all the white devils do. Never resist arrest. Never talk to cops wile being arrested. Always ask for a lawyer. then you can continue with your bull shit. Stay stupid peace and love peace and love. 

Djvin Man
Djvin Man

Those police should be fired and indicted along with the EMS people, what a damn shame

cformusic
cformusic

@Frank Vieira because what does the price of berries in Finland have to do with the weather in North Dakota?

Ira Ras Negus George
Ira Ras Negus George

When Giuliani was mayor the police seemed to get hostile especially in low income communities then after 9/11 they went totally barbaric!I do now believe without a doubt now that 9/11 was a staged disaster & the reasons are all manifesting now!I believe it was a demo job that would trigger off all that New York has & is becoming! Bigoted Hipsters & wealthy scum bags gentrifing & pushing people out of there neighborhoods using the methods of jacked up rents & police brutality!Its strange to me that after 9/11 Americas so called borders where supposed to be monitored so no so called Terrorist would get into the country to attack again?Especially in N.Y.C. since N.Y.C. is such a target??? But it seems that all that was a hoax because a whole off the radar workforce has emerged to the greedy wealthy & their hipsters seed that they don't have to pay a living wage too or provide healthcare!If I walk in the street without I.D. I am arrested & detained this man was so called selling cigarettes & the police was trying to arrest him because we was so called breaking the law but those who are willing to work for the rich & not ask for at least minimum wage & health-care with no I.D. is ok & not breaking the law??? Ok so America has become enforce to some but not all!This is racism at its finest!!!

Patrick Fiore
Patrick Fiore

Who cares? He didn't do anything wrong that day. No one deserves to be murdered.

Frank Vieira
Frank Vieira

How come no one talks about the rap sheet this guy had. Something like 38 arrests.

FrankVieraIsWrong
FrankVieraIsWrong

Because it is not relevant to him being brutalized by the police, Frank. And if you think it is relevant, than what is much more relevant and should be talked about are the 2012 civil rights claims against the officer.

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