Eric Garner’s mother wins bid for investigation into New York City’s handling of the arrest and chokehold death of her son at the hands of police
- New York state judge ordered a ‘summary inquiry’ into Eric Garner’s 2014 death in response to petition filed by his mother last year
- Garner, 43, died in July 2014 after being placed in chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo while being arrested for selling loose cigarettes
- Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, and his sister filed a petition seeking to bring the mayor of New York City and other officials to address ‘unresolved factual issues’
- New York City Charter allows citizens to bring any public servant before a judge to answer allegations of official misconduct
- Inquiry will cover lack of immediate medical aid for Garner, possible false statements and leaks of Garner’s arrest and medical history
- City is appealing the ruling, saying there is no evidence Mayor Bill de Blasio or any other officials mishandled the case
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Six years after Eric Garner was filmed gasping ‘I can’t breathe’ while being placed in a chokehold by the police in Staten Island, a judge has ruled that the man’s family could question Mayor Bill de Blasio and other top city officials in court about their handling of the case.
New York State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden on Thursday ordered a ‘summary inquiry’ into Garner’s 2014 death, a year after the man’s mother, Gwen Carr, filed a petition seeking to bring the mayor of New York City, former Police Commissioner James O’Neil and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro to address ‘unresolved factual issues’ concerning the incident.
‘Although the arrest and death of Eric Garner has received considerable attention in the press over the past six years, many facts relating to his arrest and death, and the investigations and any disciplinary actions taken in response to his death, have not been disclosed to the public or to the family of Mr. Garner,’ Madden wrote in her opinion.
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Gwen Carr (left), the mother of Eric Garner (right), has won a legal right to question top New York City officials about their handling of her son’s arrest
Officers were trying to arrest Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes on July 17, 2014, when NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo wrapped his armed around the suspect’s neck for about seven seconds as they struggled against a glass storefront.
Garner’s final moments were captured on video recorded by his friend. His dying gasps of ‘I can’t breathe’ have become a rallying cry among police reform activists.
In December 2014, a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges in Garner’s death. He was fired from the force in August 2019, after a judge ruled that he had used a banned chokehold on Garner.
Last summer, Garner’s mother and sister filed a petition in state court seeking a summery inquiry, a special proceeding allowed by New York City Charter Section 1109 that enables the courts to act as a check on the actions of city government by allowing citizens to bring any public servant before a judge to answer allegations of official misconduct under penalty of perjury. Afterward, transcripts of their testimony are made public.
Garner, a father of six, died in July 2014 after being put in a chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo. This video shows cops tending to him after he stopped breathing
Carr and Garner’s sister, Ellisha Flagg Garner, allege that de Blasio, O’Neill and other city officials neglected their duties in their handling of Garner’s death, and then failed to release information about the case.
City Hall and the police department pushed back on the request for such an inquiry and filed a motion to dismiss the petition.
‘The police department conducted a fair and impartial investigation into this matter, including holding a public trial,’ City Hall spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein stated in August 2019.
Officer Pantaleo was never criminally charged in connection to Garner’s death. He was fired from the NYPD in August 2019
The summery inquiry will cover several aspects of the arrest and its aftermath, including the lack of immediate medical aid for Garner, possible failures to train NYPD officers in the use of force and chokeholds, and suspected filing of ‘false officials NYPD documents,’ reported CNN.
Garner’s family also would like to question officials about possible false statements that were made during an internal investigation, leaking of Garner’s arrest record and medical history, as well as his autopsy information.
‘It has been more than six long years since the NYPD killed my son, and six long years of cover ups and excuses from Mayor de Blasio and his entire administration. Today is an important sign of hope that their misdeeds will not stay in the dark — the world will know what they did to my son and my family,’ Carr told CNN.
‘We have seen the video. We have heard my son cry ‘I can’t breathe’ as he died. Now we have a chance to finally show that the Mayor has allowed the police department to get away with murder — and the related cover-up. I hope New Yorkers join me in my ongoing demand for the immediate firing of all the officers who engaged in misconduct related to my son’s murder.’
Mayor Bill de Blasio (left) and former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill could potentially be compelled to appear before a judge to answer questions about the Garner case
The Law Department of New York City is appealing the judge’s ruling, arguing that there is no evidence that the mayor or any other officials neglected their duties or broke the law.
‘There is no legal basis for a judicial inquiry to second guess the decisions that the law vests in the mayor and police commissioner,’ agency spokesman Nick Paolucci said.
Madden’s decision potentially clears the way for Carr and her legal team to compel di Blasio and O’Neal to appear before a judge, but Nigro will not be required to testify, reported Staten Island Advance.
Additional details concerning the inquiry will be discussed during a hearing set for October 6.