On July 17th, 2014, Eric Garner was standing on a street corner in Staten Island, New York, allegedly selling individual cigarettes (or “loosies”) as had become common in the area. Previously arrested for the offense, and out on bail, cops had taken to calling him “cigarette man” and suspected him of continuing the practice. A nearby street-fight had just broken out and he helped to break it up, but when the NYPD arrived in its aftermath they recognized Mr. Garner and suspected he’d been standing on that street corner, again, selling his supply of imported cigarettes.
We all saw what happened next when Officer Daniel Pantaleo took down and, ultimately, murdered Mr. Garner. And, yes, he murdered him as I’ll outline in this analysis.
Let’s take a look at the video again and break down, moment by moment, why it’s clear the Grand Jury made a huge mistake by clearing Officer Pantaleo of wrongdoing.
At 0:33, and much objection. the video cuts out with a cross-fade. Clearly, there’s a gap in time here. How much time has passed? I’ve never seen it said, but let’s try to compare the environment before and after to estimate. Firstly, Mr. Garner is still trying to plead his case to the cops. Officer Pantaleo has appeared behind him and there is also another woman in the background as well. A person we had seen crossing the street is now out of view, while a smaller group remains, so more than a few seconds have passed. The officer in the foreground who has been speaking to Mr Garner appears to be taking a step from the position that he was in originally. My guess is about 10-30 seconds have elapsed and the officer, in the meantime, has indicated to Mr. Garner that they are arresting him. Clearly, though, no conflict has occurred with police and this is merely the police signaling their intent to arrest.
The moment the gap ends we see Officer Pantaleo making a first attempt to handcuff Mr. Garner. Mr. Garner is saying, “Please stop, don’t touch me,” and he appears to want to continue his case with the officer in the foreground. It’s important to notice that Officer Pantaleo is the only one making contact with Mr. Garner.
Now, contrast this with a different suspect clearly resisting arrest with multiple cops attempting to handcuff him. That is a man who is resisting arrest, is doing so for quite some time, with many more officers engaged. The cops’ behavior is completely justified and very few would argue it. Now re-watch the sequence with Mr. Garner and try to comprehend why Officer Pantaleo waited for just 1 second before resorting to the “chokehold.”
This is where Mr. Garner pleads, “I can’t breath!” for the first time. He’ll state it 11 times in progressing desperation while Officer Pantaleo ignores him. According to the autopsy, Mr. Garner died due to compression of the neck. At this point he is dying even though he’s no longer being choked. Officer Pantaleo’s continued pressure on the head, however, is likely continuing to restrict his breathing.
At 1:01, it appears they have Mr. Garner handcuffed or at least he has submitted and is in the process of being handcuffed.
At this point, Eric Garner is dying and will leave his 6 children fatherless. He stops breathing and, after 7 minutes elapse, he’s put on an ambulance where he has a heart attack and dies. In these 7 minutes, he receives no medical care but many cops do put their hand on him for some reason as seen in a second video. Officer Pantaleo also playfully waves at the camera 7 minutes after watching a breathless man die right before his eyes. This is not remorse, this is satisfaction and ambivalence.
In my opinion, based on analysis of the tape, Officer Pantaleo demonstrated incompetent judgement in trying to handle the arrest by himself. He was bored and impatient while the foreground officer properly attempted to reason with Mr. Garner. He was the kid in the back of the classroom who didn’t take class seriously. When it came time to make the arrest, he jumped into action with excitement and no precaution. He simply wanted to brag that he took down this man all by himself and jumped in ahead of the team. Observing his behavior, he seems to take much joy in taking down Eric Garner much as a hunter loves taking pictures with dead animals.
Prior to this incident, Officer Pantaleo had been sued several times for his shoddy police work, once while improperly strip searching men in broad daylight as well as false arrests. He neither understands proper procedures nor knows how to accurately apply the proper ones. Immediately following the incident, he was removed from beat work and is confined to working at a desk indefinitely.
He should be in jail.