A Staten Island man's shocking and unnecessary death on Thursday at the hands of the New York City Police Department should answer the question of whether or not we've become desensitized to police brutality.
Known to friends and family as a "gentle giant," Eric Garner was a 6-foot-3, 350-pound man who had just broken up a fight moments before an NYPD officer put him in a chokehold that ended up killing him.
And a witness caught the whole thing on tape.
In the footage, it clearly shows 43-year-old Eric pleading with an officer to stop harassing him over allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.
Every time you see me, you wanna mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today. I'm done. I didn't even do nothing. Everybody standing here. I didn't do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Every time you see me, you wanna harass me and stop me, talking about I'm selling cigarettes. I'm minding my business, officer. I'm minding my business. Just please, leave me alone. I told you the last time. Please leave me alone.
Shortly after, police tried to arrest Eric with one officer immediately putting him in a chokehold (WHICH IS ILLEGAL IN NEW YORK), while other officers continue their "restraining efforts" by slamming Eric to the ground. While his head is pinned down by an officer, Eric repeats, "I can't breathe!" EIGHT TIMES before going silent.
Eric, who was a father of six, was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Daniel Pantaleo, the officer responsible for putting Eric into the illegal chokehold, has been stripped of his gun and badge and has been placed on desk duty while the NYPD's internal affairs office investigates. [Meaning Daniel still has a job and is still getting paid.]
Reverend Al Sharpton, Eric's wife and his mother held a peaceful protest on Saturday and they vow to keep fighting until there's justice for Eric.
“I talked to the mayor and the police commissioner and we are not going to stop until we can get justice for this man,” Mr. Sharpton said. Mr. Garner’s wife joined Mr. Sharpton but had to be escorted off the stage after she broke down in tears.
Eric had asthma, so already some reports are saying he may have died from the asthma attack and not the chokehold, however he clearly told them he could not breathe several times during the arrest and they did nothing but continue to restrain him.
It is unclear if the chokehold contributed to the death on Thursday afternoon of Mr. Garner, who was at least 6 feet 3 inches tall and who, friends said, had several health issues: diabetes, sleep apnea, and asthma so severe that he had to quit his job as a horticulturist for the city’s parks department. He wheezed when he talked and could not walk a block without resting, they said.
Nonetheless, the use of a chokehold in subduing a large but unarmed man during a low-level arrest raises for Mr. Bratton the same questions about police training and tactics that he faced 20 years ago, in his first stint as New York City’s police commissioner.
Eric Garner is survived by six kids, including a 3-month-old baby.
Here's raw video from a guy on the scene:
Update: Here's a video captured after Eric had already lost consciousness. The cops on the scene did not administer CPR, nor did the EMS when they arrived minutes later. Also, it's worth pointing out that when Eric was arrested, he was never read his rights.