Politicians, TV pundits and many black Americans are talking about the Eric Garner incident in New York and complaining about the "racist cops" who "killed Eric Garner" over some loose cigarettes. But are they correct about what happened?
Store owners (mostly minorities according to reports) contacted the police about Garner selling loose cigarettes outside their stores and preventing customers from entering. It was not the first time Garner had been accused of that very thing. At the time of the incident Garner was on bail for illegally selling cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession and false impersonation.
Police responded to the scene and attempted to place Garner under arrest. Some say he should not have been arrested for such a minor crime but again, he was on bail for the same thing, having been arrested only a short time before for the same crime. How many people get out of jail and get caught committing the same crime without getting arrested again? The police had no choice in this case.
Garner refused to be arrested. He pulled away every time police attempted to gain control of his hands. It was a stupid mistake on his part. Regardless of your guilt or innocence, in this country if a police officer says you're under arrest you do not have a choice in the matter. One way or another you're going go jail. Unfortunately for Eric Garner, he chose the wrong way.
Eric Garner was six feet four inches tall and weighed 350 pounds. If you've never had the experience of using force on someone that big (as I have) you have no idea what it's like, nor do you have any idea what is involved. The officer who put his arm around Garner's neck did the best thing he could do. He got Garner from behind, got him off balance and made it easier to get him on the ground. He did not use a "chokehold" as the media and others like to say. During the struggle, Garner said "I can't breathe" 11 times. You cannot speak if someone has you in a true chokehold. A chokehold cuts off respiration as well as cutting circulation through the carotid arteries and renders the person unconscious within about 20 seconds. Garner was alive and breathing when he was placed in the ambulance.
Another fact that the media likes to leave out is that Eric Garner suffered a fatal heart attack in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. He suffered from a number of health problems including heart disease, severe asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sleep apnea - all of which contributed to his death. The coroner said that neck compression and chest compression (while on the ground) also contributed to his death. It was a combination of things that ultimately led to his cardiac arrest. But since he was alive when he was placed in the ambulance the police didn't kill him.
An African-American police sergeant was on the scene at the time of the attempted arrest and was in charge of the entire thing. She is visible in the video. Not once did she intervene or tell the officers they were doing anything wrong. She observed the hold that Officer Pantaleo had on Garner and did not do or say anything to correct him.
For the officer to have been charged with murder there had to have been intent. There is no evidence that the officer intended to do anything other than take Eric Garner into custody. Just like Darren Wilson didn't set out to kill Michael Brown, Officer Daniel Pantaleo didn't set out to cause the death of Eric Garner. There was no murder. And since "chokeholds" are against police department policy but not illegal in the state of New York, Pantaleo's actions did not violate the law. That's important.
The president of the New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, 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."
Eric Garner's death was a tragedy. But contrary to what is being said by many, Garner's death was not caused by illegal acts nor was it caused by racism. Even Garner's daughter told a reporter that her father's death was not caused by racism. Yet President Obama, Eric Holder, Bill De Blasio and many others continue to say it was.
Norm Pattis, a respected Connecticut civil rights attorney and author of two books, “Taking Back the Courts” and “Juries and Justice," said it best. "The death of Eric Garner is not an example of racial injustice. It’s a tragic consequence of a man who refused to take his grievance to a courtroom where it could be sorted out without violence. He paid for that mistake with his life. That does not make him a martyr."