A Fatal Arrest, and Questions About Chokeholds

Monday, July 21, 2014

WNYC criminal justice reporter Kathleen Horan talks about the death of Eric Garner during an arrest on Staten Island during which the NYPD used the banned "chokehold."



Kathleen Horan

Comments [40]

Bruce H. Dunnett from Deer Park, N.Y. 12729

I wish the worst for police who kill for fun, & demand justice should be applied on them moreso than an average civilian. This brutal murder of Eric Garner & the pain felt by his blood relatives & extended family will definitely create more violence in suburban as well as urban neighborhoods as we learn to start 'living the prayer' rather than just flappin' our traps as I am now! There is no other way for spiritually minded people to obtain peace as we prepare to leave this world. In the spirit of the struggle for the truth to be realized, we are all related... Mitakuyase

Jul. 28 2014 08:56 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I hope that Gov. Cuomo and Mayor deBlasio LEGALIZE video recording police activity - as long as the cameras are 20' feet away so the photographers do not interfere with police activity.

And the police need TRAINING to be sensitive to peoples health issues.

Jul. 21 2014 07:12 PM
Sandi Cooper

About 3-4 years ago I drove onto the campus of the College of Staten Island (where I teach) to find a large group of policemen; four of them were hold down a thin black man, prone on the ground, face down, and handcuffs tying his hands behind his back. At least one policeman had a foot on his back. I tried to get our of the car to investigate -- this after all, is a college campus -- and was told to "get moving sister" or "we will pull you in too." It turns out the man was a janitorial employee caught smoking pot in a bathroom when the police had decided to use that facility. They arrested him. He died later. The outraged faculty inquired, passed a resolution, demanded that the then president, Tomas Morales, give us a report. We never heard a thing.

Sandi E Cooper
Professor of History

Jul. 21 2014 07:11 PM
john from nj

I feel for all my brothers got stuck between aggressive cops and everyday gangbangers. This is deeply upsetting. RIP Eric.

Jul. 21 2014 01:41 PM
Marian from Brooklyn, NY

It's often overlooked in the reporting that the EMTs and paramedics implicated here are not NYC Fire Department personnel but Richmond University Medical Center employees. They're certified by the state and city,but RUMC is contracted to participate in the 911 system as a "voluntary hospital." They have not received training from the FDNY EMS academy.

Jul. 21 2014 01:37 PM
steve from brooklyn

yeah Paul you're right and women getting raped should just "relax and enjoy it" because so much unpleasantness could be avoided.

that was a super smart take paul really appreciate your contribution

Jul. 21 2014 12:44 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Mr. Garner was a BIG man and I think some BIG people have difficulty breathing while lying down. Think of Sleep Apnea.

I heard Mr. Garner say on the video something like "I can't breathe".

I wish the ambulance chaser, opportunist, camera lice al (tawana brawley, freddies fashion mart fire, crown heights) would keep his dumb mouth shut and let the Law and Mayor deBlasio take its course.

Jul. 21 2014 12:37 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Thank G-d for the video.

The video and audio recording show us one angle of this tragedy.

The police stupidly over-reacted and an unhealthy man died.

G-d Bless Eric Garner and his devastated family.

Jul. 21 2014 12:29 PM
Paul from Brooklyn

Most, if not all of these types of police encounters can be avoided if the person being arrested complies with the officer's orders. Period.

Jul. 21 2014 12:20 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ JD from CT

Yeah, "most people" also know that 2 on 1 is not even a fight no matter how big of a guy he was. This was, I think, 5 on 1 including a hugely fat cop who was there the whole time (walks into frame after they put him on the ground) over the whole thing... Are you suggesting the only choice the cop's had was between shooting him down like a dog or using a BANNED restraint technique to take down an unarmed, non-violent suspect who was neither fleeing nor attacking them? Do you work for the PBA? Let me reiterate the perspective of the law on these matters:


*It doesn't matter that there were no injuries to the suspect's windpipe. it doesn't prove that severe compression did not occur.

*It doesn't matter that it's impossible to prove the "choke hold" caused death, it can cause death, and that is enough to establish liability.

*The city is liable, end of story. The Cop is probably guilty of 2nd Degree Manslaughter. How?

"Manslaughter in the Second Degree occurs when a person continues with a reckless act that they are aware of committing, and they consciously disregard the potentially fatal risks involved to others. The risk must be of the type that any reasonable person would not ignore. Although this crime lacks the intention to do others harm, there is within it the knowledge that the activity being engaged in could cause serious or fatal injury to others"

ALL OF THE ELEMENTS ARE MET AND IN EVIDENCE. It just comes down to whether Deblabbio is for real about cracking down on excessive force or just more talk...

Jul. 21 2014 12:12 PM
Herb from Brooklyn

This situation is troubling for several reasons, and I believe the caller you just said 'what should police officers do?' is a great starting point for this conversation. Police officers and policing need to be understood in the terms of 'community policing'. Police officers play a critical role in any community, and in most instances, violence has no place in a community. Neither by community residents or individuals assigned to uphold the role of law. The academy needs to spend a greater deal of time training officers to handle these situation without the use of force. Training officers to verbally get a person to comply.

Mr. Garner, repeatedly asks why are you harassing me? You never hear the officers inform him of the infractions he is suspected of violating, and the inform him of the law which he has violated. Clearly, their first intent was to bring Mr.Garner to the ground, go through his pockets, and then inform him of what infractions he has violated. This approach is tactically unconstitutional in nature, which once again speaks to the dire need for additional training.

Lastly, I would like to mention that this incident will be a defining moment in DeBlasio's administration, in particular, with Bratton return as commissioner in regards to police and community relations. Bratton must begin the process of moving the police department towards a new direction in which police officers realize they are stakeholders of the community, and implement approaches to policing a community that is more in accordance with 21 century approaches. It is for this reason, my personal choice for police commissioner was Cheif Joanne Jaffe. The department needs an individual who is committed to implementing the 'community policing' model.

Jul. 21 2014 12:03 PM
Gustavius Renwick from New York

Why would you put a human being in a cage for selling illegal cigarettes in the first place? This is what is so egregious about this to me. He committed the non-violent crime of tax evasion. Punish his pocket book and give him a ticket. His final plea to these officers was for his humanity and dignity-"leave me alone!" That was why he struggled and pulled his hands away. Any rational person who can't agree that putting a person in a cage for selling illegal cigarettes is imhumane has ovbiously never been to jail before. Don't believe me ask former NYPD Police commissioner Bernard Kerik. We so called liberals sit back and continue to watch members of our communtiy incarcerated for petty crimes. As long as its the minorities getting locked up there will continue to be a blind eye. Sad.

Jul. 21 2014 12:01 PM
JD from CT

Great show. How about those callers! Very Sad is a fair assessment of the situation.

Most people don't realize that a a large man can kill or maim another man with his hands in the blink of an eye. That said,why didn't these cops have tasers? or some other form of restraint, given the situation?

I wonder the people who defend the cops' actions would see the situation any differently had the cop shot him instead of choking him. What if all the cops had shot him?

Jul. 21 2014 11:49 AM
Paul T from Brooklyn NY

I don't care how big he is or what he was doing, the officers life were not in danger and it's their job not to kill him.

We live in a universe in which life in the most precious, mysterious thing we have and for these officers to act the way they did was criminal, they should be arrested for murder.

Jul. 21 2014 11:46 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Why are cops not compassion ? Because many NYC white cops are raciest. The recruitment policy and the training is the issue here. Just a high school degree qualifies some one to be a cop in NYC? Where is mayor’s now with all of his election talk? Or was it just bullshit?

Jul. 21 2014 11:43 AM
irie from brooklyn



Jul. 21 2014 11:43 AM
RIP from NYC

Radio Rahim started the fight in the pizzeria by cranking his boombox - not a good comparison to the victim in this case...

This incident underscores the complete lack of regard for human life by the NYPD. They are not here to serve or protect the 99% - can you imagine an unarmed Wall Street criminal treated this way by the police?

Jul. 21 2014 11:42 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Black folk being killed for being outraged at police excess and abuse of power, or being born big and black...

In the last 3 weeks alone we have seen videotape of the California Highway Patrol overpowering then beat a 51-yr old troubled woman's brains out, of a college professor being thrown to the ground for..."jaywalking"...supposedly. And these are only the ones lucky enough to be taped...

Jul. 21 2014 11:41 AM

It was awful to watch the cop pressing this man's head into the sidewalk. That's gotta hurt. But, I doubt the cop made this up, and was probably trained to do this. If we focus on the cops nothing will change. Don't we need to focus on the rules the cops are following??? Let's change them now!

Jul. 21 2014 11:39 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Seriously, the devaluation of black life, borne of centuries of brutality is ongoing. It is so powerfully operative, that officers commit it in broad daylight, in front of cameras. We go through MANIFESTATIONS/MICROAGGRESSIONS OF IT EVERY.DAY. Let's face it, so we can transcend it...

Jul. 21 2014 11:38 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Stop trying to change the subject. Using a banned restraint technique means the city is liable and whomever choked him is probably guilty of manslaughter. This wasn't a life or death struggle, it was a clear case of excessive force the resulted in a death. THE FACT THAT HE RESISTED OR DID NOT COMPLY DOES NOT MEAN THE POLICE CAN USE A BANNED RESTRAINT TECHNIQUE.

Jul. 21 2014 11:37 AM
PJ from NYC/Northern NJ

This is endemic behavior on behalf of some officers. Too many "ordinary" citizens are presumed to be criminals and not worthy of decent treatment.

Here's an example of a non-violent exchange: Many years ago, I went to a NYPD office in lower Manhattan to inquire about a towed car. The clerk looked it up on a computer terminal and was about to give me the information. An officer standing nearby questioned the clerk's actions, and said, in effect, "To hell with this guy, why are you helping him out?"

To her credit, the clerk told off the officer, actually did her job, gave me the requested information, and saved me several additional hours of aggravation.

Jul. 21 2014 11:37 AM

John, were it not for the cops' actions no sharks would be circling. They brought this on themselves. Please, making post-event arguments doesn't help your case for what happened at the time.

Jul. 21 2014 11:35 AM
M from BK

An increasing number of people are taking Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, especially police and military. A choke is one of the most effective ways of subduing a person of any size with proper training of knowing when to stop to prevent death. However, it can be a deadly technique and shouldn't be used so recklessly. That's why it's a banned technique by the police.

Mr. Garner's intimidating size probably prompted the officer to resort to such a tactic. However, the police officer was clearly in the wrong for using it. What's even more troubling is that he doesn't have the training to execute the choke properly and properly stop. It's a sad case of a person with power abusing that power in a reckless and harmful way. I hope that these cops are thrown off the force and properly punished for murder.

Here's a fantastic explanation of the kind of choke used and why it shouldn't be used so recklessly:

Jul. 21 2014 11:33 AM

@john from office

Why didn't Mr. Garner just comply with the officers? Because we don't live in a police state. If I'm pulled over in my car, and the police officer steps up to my window and orders me to show him my breasts, and I refuse, can he arrest me for refusing orders? This is the kind of thing many women fear. And some women have experienced.

Selling loose cigarettes, if that is what he was doing, should not even be an arrestable offense. Unless you have a warehouse full.

As for his size - did you see how fat the officer was who was standing over a clearly unconscious if not already dead Eric Garner for over four minutes pretending he was fine? THEY NEVER TOOK THE CUFFS OFF OF HIM EVEN AFTER THEY PUT HIM ON THE STRETCHER! Even when he was laying on the ground, unmoving, with the fat cop hanging over him shaking his shoulder, another cop is on the other side of him holding his arms even tho he's CUFFED.

This is BLATANT police harassment. Anyone who says things like "why didn't he just follow the policeman's order" are as much a problem for our society as these murdering, sociopathic police "officers". And I am a middle-aged white woman.

Jul. 21 2014 11:32 AM

This guy had been arrested 31 times. Clearly, the cops knew what is was capable of. This is not an isolated incident, but we don't see all that happened previously.

Jul. 21 2014 11:31 AM
antonio from baySide

Kind of sad, I heard someone laughing during the caller, Vernon's call.

Jul. 21 2014 11:30 AM
john from office

Folks, this is a terrible incident. But, I will not blame the cops here. I also always note the legal sharks starting to circle, smelling law suits and settlements.

Jul. 21 2014 11:29 AM
irie from brooklyn

Sickening and disgusting NYPD culture. Corruption, brutality, acting with impunity like a mafia. Murderous cops need to go to jail for killing unarmed civilians. And the $100 million due to the six children of the victim should come out of the police budget. Despicable nypd meatheads.

Jul. 21 2014 11:28 AM
Jake S

Well jgarbuz, Israel and the NYPD both have some pretty awful people in charge, so I'd say he's on the right track here.

Jul. 21 2014 11:27 AM
The Truth from Becky

Yes John, as a matter of fact that is what the police who are paid to protect and serve should have done "You are being placed under arrest, turn around and place your hands behind you back sir" and WAIT for the resistance if ANY.

Jul. 21 2014 11:27 AM
stefano from 11206

Couldn't that situation be dealt with a summons and a date to appear in court? Arresting someone for selling a cigarette? Does it have to do with those NYPD officers trying to fill quotas?

The victim was not being violent. It was a minor violation. Arrest and handcuss?
that should be outrageous enough.

And also no cop seemed to care that Pantaleone did an illegal choke hold. They failed to protect a victim and supervise a cop that broke the law. They should all be investigated and punished for being accomplices to a crime

Jul. 21 2014 11:27 AM
Clif from Manhattan

The video clearly shows the police assaulting this innocent man. He never threatened them or used profanity. The offending officer who used the choke hold (and it is clearly a choke hold) should be removed from the force and serve some jail time for some kind of assault and/or manslaughter. Not to mention they were smashing his head into the side walk.

The EMS people should be ashamed of themselves. YOUR JOB IS TO SAVE PEOPLE'S LIVES!!


Jul. 21 2014 11:27 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Mr. Bad

You apparently know what you are by the screen name you chose to give yourself. I've noticed that in almost every case online that posters oppose the forces of good in general invariably give themselves evil names. You oppose Israel. You oppose the police. You call yourself Mr. Bad. What else do we need?

Jul. 21 2014 11:24 AM
john from office

The police should have just asked the giant man to please "let us handcuff you sir".

He was selling loosies, did he smoke??

Jul. 21 2014 11:23 AM

John that's just sad. Come on, the guy was unarmed. He was never accused of any violent crime. He could have been waited out, but clearly Words are not a strong suit of these cops. Size, really? Is that your case for what these cops did? very, very weak.

But still, are the cops really to blame, or do we need to be looking at the rules they operate under? What are they trained to do in such a situation? The cops never seem to be wrong once a case like this is evaluated, because they are usually just following "procedures". Don't we need to be looking at changing the d#@mn Procedures? The seem to allow all but cart blanche.

Jul. 21 2014 11:22 AM
Joe from Ave. O from nyc

This is discussion forum thread is trending on social media:

Jul. 21 2014 11:22 AM
The Truth from Becky

"a cha ching moment' How is it possible to have so much ignorance in one person?

It was a banned chokehold move that was applied. The same thing that is happening to John from office is the same thing that is happening with the police officers..desensitized.

Jul. 21 2014 11:21 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ john from office

What does his size have to do with it? He wasn't armed, he wasn't violent and whether or not it's ever established definitively that the BANNED choke hold caused his death directly it certainly contributed to it and that is enough to establish liability - and probably criminal guilt. When a cop uses a BANNED restraint technique he is per se a "Bad Cop". There is no other logical conclusion, no exigent circumstance, no excuse.

Jul. 21 2014 11:11 AM
john from office

I hope Brian is fair here and not go into Bad Cops mode.

Did you see the size of this individual ?? This is turning into a Cha Ching moment for the family, Stanford Rubenstein and Al Sharpton.

Why didn't Mr. Garner just comply with the officers??

Jul. 21 2014 10:30 AM

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