New York, NY — On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, father of six, had just broken up a fight outside of his shop when he was targeted by NYPD cops for harassment and extortion. Fed up with the constant persecution from cops, Garner voiced his discontent. He was subsequently assaulted and killed by “compression of neck, chest and positioning during restraint by police.” In spite of investigators ruling his death a homicide, and the video evidence, no one has ever been held responsible for the murder of Eric Garner — until now.
According to the NY Post, a source within law enforcement told them Washington-based federal prosecutors plan to aggressively pursue charges against NYPD cop Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.
“It’s going to happen sooner than later,” the source said of an indictment. “Washington wants to indict him.”
According to the Post:
Federal investigators in Brooklyn were replaced by DC counterparts because of their reluctance to bring charges, the source said.
The New York feds are privately seething. They accused their Beltway colleagues of trying to “make an example out of Pantaleo” at any cost, said one source familiar with the case.
“We already … came to a conclusion which they didn’t like. It’s truly disgraceful what they’re doing,” the source said.
“I can’t breathe,” Garner pleaded, eleven times — as officer Daniel Pantaleo choked the life from this kind and loving man.
As Claire Bernish pointed out, Garner’s plea for his life became the rallying call of Black Lives Matter and police brutality activists across the nation and around the world — though the inhumanity of having to beg for one’s life after committing a nonviolent, victimless crime remains sadly all-too-common.
But though news of violent and deadly acts committed by police top headlines with alarming frequency, the fact Pantaleo used his bare hands to strangle the life from Garner was a startling departure from shootings that typify brutal policing. So personal is choking a man to death, even ordinary Americans were suddenly forced to question what, exactly, happened to the romanticized image of friendly neighborhood police from mere decades ago.
Since this murder caught on video, Pantaleo has enjoyed his full salary and millions of taxpayer dollars in security costs to protect one of New York’s most loathed peace officers.
Until this week, the only person to face any consequences for Garner’s death is the man who filmed it.
Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed one of the most infamous police killings in history – and was thereafter targeted by police in a barrage of “false and/or trumped up charges” – was sentenced to four years in prison for gun possession and drug charges earlier this month.
The events leading up to the murder of Eric Garner were nothing short of insidious. For years, these same NYPD cops targeted Garner for harassment and extortion. As the Free Thought Project exclusively reported back in December 2014, Garner had been sexually assaulted by the NYPD — on more than one occasion.
In an interview with Garner’s stepfather as well as his children, the Free Thought Project was told that police had actually stolen money from Garner, who subsequently planned to file a complaint against the NYPD for this theft. Police were there that day, Benjamin Carr, Garner’s stepfather says, not to shake Garner down for selling smokes, but to retaliate against him for trying to expose their theft.
Before he killed Eric Garner on video, Pantaleo had been sued three times for violating the constitutional rights of other black males in the area, by performing humiliating strip searches and fondling the genitalia of his victims, some of them in public view.
The most recent of these lawsuits was filed the November following Garner’s death, and comes from Kenneth Collins, who says in the lawsuit that he “was subjected to a degrading search of his private parts and genitals by the defendants.”
The NYPD paid out a settlement in 2013 to two men who sued the city because Pantaleo forced them to strip naked in public as he “touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence.”
According to another lawsuit, victim Rylawn Walker, was charged with marijuana possession and underwent similar rights violations by Pantaleo. The charges were dismissed against Walker and the case sealed on a motion from prosecutors. His lawsuit against the NYPD stated that Walker “was committing no crime at that time and was not acting in a suspicious manner.”
Defense lawyer Michael Colihan summed up this atrocity when he wrote a letter in August 2014 to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos. In his letter, Colihan said:
To put it mildly, many police on Staten Island have been playing fast, loose and violently with the public they seem to have forgotten they are sworn to protect. After litigating about 200 of these civil rights matters in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York since 1977, I have seen no interest by the managers of the New York City Police Department, or anyone employed by the city of New York, in doing anything to stop this.
For two years, the complacency and failure to act on the crimes of the NYPD have continued. But now, Garner’s family has renewed hope that the man who took their beloved father, husband, and son, will soon be held accountable for his actions.