Eric Garner’s Family Still Seeks Justice Four Years Later

Community activists and supporters of the Garner family joined together at the steps of City Hall Tuesday on the fourth anniversary Eric Garner’s death. (Photo by Jose Martinez/El Diario)

Tuesday marks exactly four years since Eric Garner was fatally choked by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island in 2014. No one forgets the graphic video of Garner’s death that sparked mass demonstrations across the country, and for good reason: justice still has not been served.

On Monday, just 24 hours before the fourth anniversary of Garner’s death, the NYPD announced in a press release that it would proceed with its internal investigation without the Justice Department’s oversight if criminal charges against Pantaleo were not filed by August 31 in the federal investigation, describing the DOJ probe’s timeline with “no end in sight.”

But the Garner’s family, along with community activists and leaders, are not buying what advocates are calling a “political football game” between the de Blasio administration and the Police Department in which the case is being prolonged yet again.

A visibly distressed Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, stood in front of reporters and cameras at City Hall Tuesday afternoon to speak about the letter and lack of justice served in holding the officers involved in Garner’s death accountable.

“It’s been four years and my family has not seen any responsibility taken by the de Blasio administration for the police’s misconduct,” said Carr. “All those officers that day, they need to stand accountable for what they did to my son. They killed him.”

According to the DOJ, it already told the Police Department in April that it could go forward with the investigation.

“Given the DOJ statement, September is indisputably an artificial constraint imposed by the NYPD — something the department has continued to create as a rationale for inaction,” Communities United for Police Reform said in a statement in response to the NYPD letter.

Gwen Carr speaks to reporters on the steps of City Hall about the four-year anniversary of her son’s death.

“They found out in April from the DOJ they could move forward,” said Minister Kirsten John Foy at Tuesday’s press conference. “It is now July and now they are saying we have to wait until September. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Although the medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide back in 2014 due to the illegal chokehold administered by Panteleo, the Richmond County grand jury failed to indict Panteleo or any of the officers involved on criminal charges in 2014.

A March 2017 report found that “only 1,750 current NYPD officers — or around 4.9 percent of the force — have received eight or more complaints, as Pantaleo has,” yet the department allowed him to stay on street patrol despite his record. To this day Pantaleo is still on paid desk duty within the department — one of the main issues for police reform activists, civil rights advocates and community leaders.

The level of distrust towards the department continues to grow with each passing summer as city officials and the NYPD have yet to come up with an outcome to this high-profiled and documented case of intense police misconduct and brutality resulting in the death of an unarmed black man. The low levels of trust, however, are not unwarranted or uncommon, especially when it comes to filming police brutality.

Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed Garner’s death, is expected to serve four years in prison from a plea deal on gun and drug charges in 2014.

Orta and his supporters have claimed that the NYPD is out to get him, according to the Huffington Post, being arrested multiple times on what his lawyer says are false and exaggerated charges, and calling the smear campaign and arrests “pure retaliation” from the department.

But regardless of Orta’s ongoing legal battles with the NYPD or his claims that the department is retaliating against him, city government’s inaction and ineffectiveness to find a swift and just conclusion to the death of Garner at the hands of the NYPD four years later is the focus of Carr.

“This has to stop,” she said. “In the black and brown community, they have to treat us with dignity as they do in other communities. And until this happens, we are not going to stop.”

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Carl G. Straut-Collard

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Brooklyn-native poet, author, artist, & activist. Debut book EMPIRE SUNSETS OUT NOW.

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Bringing light to the stories impacting the five boroughs community, from local politics and government, to civics, history and much more.