police brutality
Officer Identified in Garner Killing, Death Ruled a Homicide
August 7, 2014  //  By:   //  Human Rights Watch, Investigative Reports  //  No Comment

(Story by Carol Thompson) A New York City police officer has turned in his badge and gun following the release of an autopsy report in relation to the death of Eric Garner.

The 43-year-old Staten Island father of six was killed last month by New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo when he allegedly put the asthmatic Garner into an illegal chokehold. The NYPD banned the use of chokeholds years ago.

Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran of the force, was caught on video subduing Garner. An autopsy ruled Garner’s death a “homicide.”

Pantaleo, along with Justin D’Amico, who has been on the force for four years, were the first to arrive on the scene. D’Amico was placed on desk duty.

Along with the two officers, four medical emergency workers who responded to the incident have been placed on leave without pay as the investigation into the incident continues. They are employed by Richmond University Medical Center. Their names have not been released.

Officers approached Garner July 17 to question him in regard to their belief that he was selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner repeatedly said he had done nothing wrong and asked the officers to leave him alone. As police tried to arrest Garner, Pantaleo appears to have placed his arm across Garner’s throat and wrestled him to the ground. Garner can be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,” while another officer pressed his head against the sidewalk. Garner died soon after.

A video of the incident went viral, sparking public outrage and a national debate over the use of police force.

Not the First Rodeo for Pantaleo

A lawsuit settled in January accuses Pantaleo and another officer of a March 2012 strip-search whereby two men on a New Brighton Street alleged the officers pulled down their pants and underwear in broad daylight.

It was alleged that Pantaleo then took the two men to the 120th Precinct station, where Pantaleo and the other officer strip-searched them again, forcing them “to remove all of their clothing, squat, cough and lift their genitals.”

That case was settled out of court for a reported $30,000.

Another case, still pending, was filed by Rylawn Walker in Manhattan federal court this past February.

Walker alleges that Pantaleo arrested him Feb. 16, 2012 although he was “committing no crime at that time and was not acting in a suspicious manner.”

The lawsuit doesn’t specify the circumstances of the arrest, but alleges that Pantaleo “…misrepresented facts in the police reports and other documents that the plaintiff had committed offenses when in fact this was not true.”

Police Brutality on the Rise

The Cato Institute’s National Police Misconduct Reporting Project tracks cases of police brutality and abuse around the country, as well as the lawsuits filed as the result of alleged brutality. The institute also tracks the arrests of law enforcement officers for such things as misconduct, drugs, and other crimes.

The institute’s 2010 National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project recorded 4,861 unique reports of police misconduct that involved 6,613 sworn law enforcement officers and 6,826 alleged victims for the period January through December.

The report offered the following statistics:

• 4,861 – Unique reports of police misconduct tracked
• 6,613 – Number of sworn law enforcement officers involved (354 were agency leaders such as chiefs or sheriffs)
• 6,826 – Number of alleged victims involved
• 247 – Number of fatalities associated with tracked reports
• $346,512,800 – Estimated amount spent on misconduct-related civil judgments and settlements excluding sealed settlements, court costs, and attorney fees.

The report notes, “While the overall US average police misconduct rate appears to be climbing in comparison to both last year’s rate and the previously reported rate 3 months ago, it is difficult to see a clear causative factor for the increase and it isn’t clear what type of misconduct is increasing to cause this trend though the number of officers involved in excessive force reports appear to be demonstrating an overall trend increase since the beginning of 2010.”

It further states, “While overall misconduct appears to be trending higher, disciplinary actions against officers and the number of convictions on criminal charges appear to be relatively flat overall. Also, while conviction rates do not show any correlation with the number of reported officers, internal disciplinary rates do appear to show a very slight matching trend.”

The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project began in April of 2009 as a means to address the lack of statistical data concerning police misconduct in the United States.

Pantaleo has been the subject of two separate federal lawsuits relating to allegations of civil-rights violations. He couldn’t be reached for comment. (Image | Live Leak)

About the Author :

Carol Thompson is a veteran investigative reporter residing in central New York. She spent 23 years with a local newspaper, The Valley News, before leaving for the Syracuse New Times, and now, VNN. Thompson has won dozens of first-place awards for investigative reporting and was the 2006 recipient of the Syracuse Press Club’s prestigious Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award. Thompson’s reporting has resulted in the arrest of public officials and has prompted policy changes. She uncovered two money laundering schemes that traveled the globe and resulted in the indictments of several developers.