NYPD Claims Officer Who Killed Eric Garner Did Not Use Chokehold

The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) top surgeon determined that the officer who arrested and killed Eric Garner did not use a chokehold. The NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau asked Chief Surgeon Eli Kleinman to review videos of Garner's death to make the determination, SILive reported. During a hearing at One Police Plaza on Thursday, Stu London, Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s lawyer, said Kleinman found no injuries to Garner’s trachea during an internal report issued in 2014. Kleinman said that Garner's “compromised cardiorespiratory system” was a factor in his death and Garner reportedly had “limited respiratory capacity by resisting arrest,” Gothamist reported.The findings support Pantaleo’s claim that he used a legal “takedown maneuver” during Garner’s arrest, London told the New York Daily News.

“It basically exonerates Officer Pantaleo,” London said, according to the Daily News. “It indicates that he didn’t use a chokehold. It indicates that the prior compromised cardiovascular system of [Garner] really is what lead to his demise. And it couldn’t be more positive for Officer Pantaleo. I think it’s definitely important because if the Police Department thought his opinion would be not only informative but material and relevant certainly this tribunal should feel the same way.”

Garner’s death sparked national outrage after a viral video captured the July 17, 2014 incident. In the video, Garner can be heard telling police officers “I can’t breathe” 11 times. The Civilian Complaint Review Board, which is prosecuting the case, stated that Kleinman had reached his conclusion by viewing the video, but “without reviewing the autopsy or any other medical reports,” Gothamist reported.

The NYC Medical Examiner also found that Garner’s death was caused by “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest, and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” according to the publication. The death was ruled a homicide in August of 2014, the outlet stated. After hearing the claim that Pantaleo did not use the chokehold, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said she would continue to fight for justice for her son.

“I know that the NYPD will throw everything at me in the upcoming trial in order to escape being held accountable for having killed Eric. But, I’m ready for the fight. I won’t give up until I get justice for my son,” Carr said in a statement following the news, the Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) told The North Star.

CPR Director Joo-Hyun Kang told The North Star that Garner was doing nothing wrong when officers approached him in Staten Island in 2014. “This is just the latest stunt by Pantaleo’s defense team to try to claim that he didn’t put Eric in a chokehold,” Kang said.

Five years after Garner’s death, Pantaleo is still employed with the NYPD, Gothamist noted. There have been calls on social media to have New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio comment on the recent claims that Pantaleo did not put Garner in a chokehold, and explain why he is still working for the NYPD. https://twitter.com/shaunking/status/1115608600372707328

“The NYPD twisting the narrative of Eric Garner's death to benefit Daniel Pantaleo has to be stopped. There is video evidence that he used a chokehold. There need to be consequences for excessive force,” Robert Carlock wrote on Monday. “Can you make a public statement why you haven’t fired Officer Daniel Pantaleo despite his use of a prohibited chokehold in the death of Eric Garner?” Arica Schuett tweeted.

Kang also believes that de Blasio should make a statement following the hearing and hold the officers who were involved in Garner’s fatal arrest accountable. “The mayor should not only be publicly commenting, but he should also be directing his police officers to investigate and hold the other officers accountable. He has not done that.” A disciplinary trial is set for May 13 and will focus on if Pantaleo used the chokehold against Garner. The chokehold was banned in 1993, according to the New York Times. If Pantaleo is found guilty of using the banned chokehold, he could lose his job but would not face criminal charges, according to Gothamist.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.