Sunday, December 7, 2014

Eric Garner: a Comedy of Errors...

I have not weighed in on any of the "black men killed by white officers," such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice,and John Crawford. That is because I see this as people (human beings) killed by police.  White people are killed by police too. I am going to take race out of this equation as I analyze this case.

What caused me to comment on this is police are saying Eric Garner was "complicit in his own death."[Source: The Huffington Post]

In each of the above mentioned cases, the victim is painted as a “thug,” Every time, it seems the bar gets lower to justify the use of deadly force. In Garner’s case, they call it “resisting,” when all he was doing was asking the police to treat him with basic dignity:

Garner was approached by NYPD officers on July 17 because he was allegedly selling “untaxed cigarettes.” Video shows Garner pleading with police to leave him alone and stop harassing him. Garner had previously been arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses for selling loose cigarettes. He insisted he was not selling anything and was minding his own business. 
As he urges police to let him be, Garner, who was 6-foot-4 and weighed around 400 pounds, is wrestled to the ground by officers including Pantaleo who puts him in an illegal chokehold. Garner is crying out, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” as Pantaleo pushes his leg into Garner’s head, which is now on the sidewalk. “I can’t breathe,” he cries again. [Source: The Dissenter

The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and found he had been killed by a chokehold.
The Medical Examiner issued its report on the death of Eric Garner this afternoon and found the "manner of death" to be homicide. It ruled the cause of death to be from "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest, and prone positioning during physical restraint by police." In addition, the ME cited contributing conditions as Garner's pre-existing "acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity, and hypertensive cardiovascular disease." [Source:]

NYPD Chief Bill Bratton, the architect of the “broken windows” policing that likely led officers to aggressively interrogate Garner about whether he was selling loose cigarettes, declared after Garner’s death, “Chokeholds are, in fact, prohibited by the New York City Police Department, as they are, in fact, by most police departments in the United States.” [Source:]
Even the EMS workers who responded have been suspended.
The EMS workers, who have not been identified, included two EMTs and two paramedics. The workers are not city employees but work for Richmond University Medical Center, according to the FDNY. They were first placed on modified duty, and then hospital officials announced Monday the workers were being suspended and would not be allowed to work at the hospital or throughout the 911 system...
...A friend of the victim showed NBC 4 New York new cellphone video Monday that showed the response moments later as Garner lay on the ground, not moving: the paramedics, EMTs and police peer over Garner, and none administer CPR[Source: NBC 4 New York]

Police: Chokehold Victim Eric Garner Complicit In Own Death

"Police officers feel like they are being thrown under the bus," said Patrick Lynch, president of the police union. 
Pantaleo's defenders have included Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who argued that the grand jury outcome would have been the same if Garner had been white, and that police were right to ignore his pleas that he couldn't breathe. 
"The fact that he was able to say it meant he could breathe," said King, the son of a police officer. [Source: The Huffington Post]

Rank-and-file New York City police officers and their supporters have been making such arguments even before a grand jury decided against charges in Garner's death, saying the possibility that he contributed to his own demise has been drowned out in the furor over race and law enforcement.

As the video sparked accusations of excessive force, the police unions mounted a counter-narrative: that Garner would still be alive if he had obeyed orders, that his poor health was the main cause of his death and that Pantaleo had used an authorized takedown move - more like a headlock than a chokehold - to subdue him.

Pat Lynch is the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the largest NYPD police union.  At a press conference last night, Lynch made sure to tell everyone that the NYPD doesn’t feel the kind of support they need from De Blasio, Eric Garner is to blame for his own death, and Officer Pantaleo is “literally an Eagle Scout.” [Source: slta_]

A second video shows CPR was not performed by the EMS workers. It does, however, show nearly four minutes of the cops gently shaking Garner as he lies unmoving on the ground. They search his pockets, but do not seem particularly concerned that their suspect hasn’t moved in minutes.  Cops know CPR, and are expected to perform it if necessary.

One officer asks the woman filming to back away and give Garner air, another checks his pulse and a third offers a supportive pat on the back while saying, "C'mon guy, breathe in, breathe out, all right," to the seemingly lifeless Garner. None of the eight cops seen in the video provide him medical help.

An emergency responder, who arrives about four minutes in, takes his pulse and tries to rouse Garner, saying, "Sir, it's EMS. C'mon, we're here to help, all right. We're here to help you. We're getting the stretcher, all right." Afterward, an officer can be heard saying, "He's breathing, he's got a pulse."

Around the 6-minute mark, officers roll Garner onto his back and lift his body onto a stretcher.
"Why nobody do the CPR?" one onlooker asks, as Garner is wheeled away. "Cause he's breathing," an officer responds.

Forearm across trachea = DEATH!!!

How is this NOT manslaughter at the very least?

New York’s statutes on manslaughter are pretty unequivocal. Just going on the plain language of the law, the police officer who killed Garner certainly appears to be guilty of second-degree manslaughter at the very least:
§ 125.15 Manslaughter in the second degree.
A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when:
1. He recklessly causes the death of another person; or
2. He commits upon a female an abortional act which causes her death,
unless such abortional act is justifiable pursuant to subdivision three
of section 125.05; or
3. He intentionally causes or aids another person to commit suicide.
Manslaughter in the second degree is a class C felony.
Source: State of NY 

The second-degree manslaughter charge requires only two factors: 1) the person charged must have caused the death of the victim, and 2) the perpetrator must have caused the death of the victim via reckless means.

As the video shows, the officer clearly caused the death of Eric Garner, who was alive until the officer put him in a chokehold, a move which is banned by the NYPD for good reason. And why did the police department ban chokeholds? Here’s an article on the subject from 1993, when a previous police chief banned the practice:
The New York City Police Department has issued an order banning the use of choke holds, the restraining maneuvers that cut off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and have been blamed in the deaths of suspects here and around the nation.

So an officer used a banned practice that is known to lead to the deaths of people who are subjected to it? That certainly seems to satisfy the second condition of a second-degree manslaughter charge?

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