By now, many people have heard the story of Eric Garner, 43, who was a married father of six children and two grandchildren. In the infamous video viewed by millions across the world, Garner was placed in a chokehold by New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo and shouted “I can’t breathe” multiple times before lying motionless and declared dead.
Garner’s crime was selling loose cigarettes on the street, and his death was ruled a homicide. Now five years later, lawyers for Pantaleo have contradicted video evidence and said that Garner was not placed in a chokehold and cite a medical report by NYPD Chief Surgeon Eli Kleinman.
After Garner’s death, Kleinman was asked by NYPD Internal Affairs to review the case and Pantaleo’s actions. According to the New York Daily News, he viewed video evidence and the coroner’s report and reached the conclusion in December 2014 that Garner was never placed in a chokehold by Pantaleo. Kleinman attributed Garner’s death on his own poor health, which included asthma, hypertension and diabetes. The medical examiner also noted Garner’s health but said his death still was declared a homicide and that a chokehold was used.
Pantaleo is fighting for the reinstatement of his job and is in the midst of an NYPD administrative hearing. A Staten Island grand jury refused to indict Pantaleo for the murder of Garner on criminal charges. Since the time of Garner’s death, a federal civil rights lawsuit was initiated, and the public is awaiting the decision of the U.S. Justice Department, which has until July 17, 2019, to decide if charges will be filed against Pantaleo. It has been reported that the U.S. Justice Department has reached a decision, but it has yet to make it public.
Pantaleo’s defense attorney Stu London introduced the 2014 report in hearings this week. “It basically exonerates Officer Pantaleo,” London said. “It indicates that he didn’t use a chokehold. It indicates that the prior compromised cardiovascular system of [Garner] really is what led to his demise. And it couldn’t be more positive for Officer Pantaleo.”
Pantaleo’s NYPD administrative trial is scheduled for May 13, 2019, before NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado.
The graphic video of Eric Garner’s death while in police custody can be seen on the next page: