As a New York grand jury decision looms in the illegal choke-hold death of Eric Garner, NYPD and the public are bracing for a potentially combustible situation, according to a November 29 report by Independent. In wake of the riots and violence from the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a burning question is on the minds of many: Will Officer Daniel Pantaleo and others be indicted and charged with the Staten Island homicide of the unarmed father of six?
Last week, a NYC panel perused evidence and heard testimony from at least one police officer believed to be involved in the choke-hold arrest of the 43-year-old man. An unnamed officer is believed to have been the last grand jury witness. While the prosecutor is not commenting publicly about the closed-door proceedings, the panel is supposedly nearing a decision.
Perhaps, the largest piece of evidence the grand jury has is an amateur video tape, which showed the deadly encounter between Garner and police moments before he died, after being restrained in a choke-hold. Documents and witness statements say Garner, 43, was seen allegedly selling non-taxable cigarettes in front of a beauty salon on July 17.
Eric Garner is seen in the footage agitated by the confrontation and telling police to leave him alone. When approached by at least four officers, Garner is observed refusing to be handcuffed. Pantaleo then approaches from the rear and places his arms around Garner’s neck. Officers subdue Garner on the ground, and he is clearly heard warning officers that he was having trouble breathing.
Moments later, the struggle stops, the man goes limp, and police manage to handcuff him. Although NYPD says Garner died in police custody later, a medical examiner said he likely died within minutes on the scene. Eric Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, and the department acknowledged that the choke-hold was outlawed in 1993. Now, a grand jury has to decide if enough probable cause is available to force the officers to stand trial. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, believes there is more than enough for the panel to charge the officer or officers involved.
“You’d have to be blind to not see what happened. I can’t see why it should take so long to reach a decision… The wait is making me very anxious, of course. But there’s nothing I can do about it.”
New York City officials are keeping in contact with Staten Island community leaders to prevent any outbreaks of violence should the officers in the death by homicide of Eric Garner are cleared of any wrongdoing. Fears are rising that the city erupts similar to Ferguson after the grand jury decision returned a decision not to indict Darren Wilson.
Police believe there are professional operatives that travel the country and spark violence in conjunction with high-profile events like the cases in New York and St. Louis County. Police Commissioner William Bratton insists that “agitators” are being closely watched, and will be dealt with.
“We’re always and constantly networking and trying to make ourselves accessible and reaching out.”
Ahead of the Eric Garner grand jury decision on the choke-hold death, Officer Pantaleo remains on desk duty without a gun and badge — standard procedure, according to NYPD sources. While some are pessimistic and untrustworthy about the judicial system, others have hope that the officers are held accountable for the homicide of Eric Garner. Unlike Wilson, who has a clean departmental record, Pantaleo faces federal charges for alleged unrelated troublesome behavior.
And unlike the death of Michael Brown, which produced a string of varying witness accounts, Eric Garner’s death was captured on tape, the manner was ruled a homicide, and the choke-hold was outlawed two decades ago. What will the grand jury’s decision be?
[Image via: The Independent]