Five years ago, the "I can not breathe" that repeated agonizing Eric Garner to the police who arrested him in 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 mass demonstrations that lasted for weeks and triggered reforms in police tactics. On Monday, the disciplinary process against Daniel Pantaleo, the agent accused of having strangled him with a forbidden key, started in New York.
The incident dates back to July 14, 2014. Garner, who was then 43 years old and weighed 160 kilos, was selling loose cigarettes on the street. He had already been arrested in the past for the same thing. I was unarmed. A video taken with a mobile phone shows how he discusses with two agents. "I'm tired. This ends today, "you hear them say," I was not selling anything. " When they reach his arm, the man resists.
Pantaleo approaches from behind and puts his arm around his neck while two other agents approach. It takes a dozen seconds to throw it to the ground. At that moment a fifth policeman appears, who helps put his head on the sidewalk while listening to Garner scream that he is short of breath. He died asphyxiated soon after, leaving six children orphaned. The key that supposedly applied to him is prohibited by the patrol manual.
The autopsy confirmed a few weeks later that Garner died from the compression he sustained on the neck and chest during the physical restraint the police officers applied to him. They could also influence the serious problems I had health, overweight. The agents, meanwhile, said they suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital. The final report of the autopsy was never made public. But the internal investigation of the NYPD determined that the key was illegal.
Both the police, through his lawyer, and the NYPD union denied this. The trial that must determine whether Pantaleo can continue to serve for the Blues is expected to last until the end of next week. A score of witnesses are planning to testify during the process. If at the end it is determined that he used a forbidden strangulation key, Commissioner James O'Neill can then decide if he can keep his job or be expelled.
Fred Davie, president of the council that examines the civil complaints, believes that the evidence presented is clear and therefore anticipates that Daniel Pantaleo will be removed from the police force when the process ends. This is what the mother asks for, Gwen Carr. The city already compensated the family in July 2015 with 5.9 million dollars. But despite accepting the disbursement, they made it clear that the money was not enough for justice to be done.
Pantaleo's attorney says that his client will deny in his testimony that he applied the chokehold and that his arm was in Garner's neck when he shouted "I can not breathe." "If you look at the video frame by frame, it's very different from if it's done in real time," explains the lawyer Stuart London. He was simply making an arrest using the seatbelt technique. "
The disciplinary process against Pantaleo was suspended so as not to interfere in an investigation by the Department of Justice. The police union asks that the agent be treated in a fair manner. He considers himself innocent and recalls that the grand jury decided not to press criminal charges after reviewing the same evidence. It is also scheduled to initiate a disciplinary trial against his supervisor, Kizzy Adonis.
The NYPD removed the plaque 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 state of health. Moreover, 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".
Jonathan Fogel, prosecutor of the disciplinary council, insisted in his first intervention in the trial that the police used "explicitly" a type of key that is prohibited and that caused a "lethal cascade" that culminated in the cardiac arrest and the death of Eric Garner . "He did not deserve to have been sentenced to death by some lazy people," he concluded.