On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, an African American, died in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island, New York, after a police officer put him in a chokehold, a tactic banned by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Garner was initially approached by Officer Justin Damico on suspicion of selling “loosies”, single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps. After Garner expressed to the police that he was tired of being harassed and that he was not selling cigarettes, officers made the move to arrest Garner. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, also on scene, put his arms around the much taller Garner's neck, applying a headlock or chokehold shown in a widely viewed video recording of the event. Garner was pronounced dead approximately one hour later at the hospital.The chokehold may have been a major factor in Garner's death, but Garner was in bad health, and that contributed as well:
After the incident, city medical examiners concluded that Garner was killed by neck compression from the chokehold, along with “the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police”. Contributing factors included bronchial asthma, heart disease, obesity, and hypertensive cardiovascular disease. Garner had health issues, including diabetes, sleep apnea and severe asthma.Eric Garner was no angel. He had a long record of criminality, most of which appears non-violent:
Garner had been previously arrested and was out on bail for selling untaxed cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession and false personation. Garner had a criminal record that includes more than 30 arrests dating back to 1980 on charges such as assault, resisting arrest, grand larceny. An official said the charges include multiple incidents in which he was arrested for selling unlicensed cigarettes.Okay, so did Garner deserve the rough treatment that resulted in his death? I would have to say NO. His attempted arrest was for suspicion of a trivial crime. The cop who choked him should have seen that the obese and older Garner might have health issues that would endanger his life -- or so it seems to me. Rough arrests have resulted in deaths of suspects in other cases as well, either by taser or by ignoring serious medical conditions such as asthma or accidental asphyxiation.
Did the cop intend to kill Eric Garner? I seriously doubt it. However, the issues seem to be (1) was excessive force used to arrest Garner and (2) was police negligence a major factor in Garner's death?
I would vote for "all of the above," and a civil suit for wrongful death against the NYPD would seem appropriate. However, the defense could argue contributory negligence. If Garner had peacefully submitted to arrest, he'd still be alive.