New York, NY – Eric Garner’s mother has called for all the other officers involved in her son’s arrest to be fired in the wake of New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner James O’Neill’s decision to terminate Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Gwen Garner said that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was premature when he said that justice had been served during a press conference following the commissioner’s announcement on Monday.
“There’s more work we have to do,” Gwen Garner told WPIX on Tuesday morning. “There’s other officers on the force who was involved in my son’s death that day and we have to go after them because they all caused my son’s death – it wasn’t only Pantaleo.”
Garner was arrested by NYPD officers on July 17, 2014, after police stopped him for selling individual, untaxed loose cigarettes on a city sidewalk.
He resisted arrest and fought with officers who struggled to take the 350-pound man into custody.
In the process of subduing Garner, video taken by witnesses showed that Officer Pantaleo had his arm around Garner's neck and pressed his face against the sidewalk.
Garner repeatedly told officers “I can’t breathe,” a phrase that became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter in the months that followed.
Officer Pantaleo later said he tried to use a “seatbelt maneuver” on Garner, and did not mean to put the much larger man into a chokehold.
Garner lost consciousness on the sidewalk, and died in the hospital an hour later from a medical emergency.
The autopsy report showed no damage to any area of his neck, and it was determined that he died of a medical emergency induced by officers who were arresting him. The medical examiner declared it was a homicide.
A New York Grand Jury declined to indict on any criminal charges.
The federal inquiry dragged on for five years and ended in July with federal prosecutors deciding not to charge Officer Pantaleo.
An administrative trial judge recommended that the officer be terminated for using a chokehold against department policy, and the police commissioner took her recommendation.
Gwen Garner told WPIX that Commissioner O’Neill’s firing of Officer Pantaleo was “a step in the right direction.”
“Justice will come when all the officers stand accountable for their wrongdoing that day,” she said. “Then we can have some sense of justice. And there’s a long way to go with that. We even have Kizzy Adonis who was charged – there was no court date set for her. There is nothing going forward with her.”
NYPD Sergeant Kizzy Adonis arrived on the scene after Garner resisted arrest and was put into handcuffs, according to the New York Daily News.
But despite the fact that Sgt. Adonis was actually seven miles away when the incident occurred, NYPD has charged her with failure to supervise the officers involved in the arrest.
The New York Daily News reported that NYPD said Sgt. Adonis failed to intervene when she arrived and saw Garner already on the ground.
She was officially charged two years before Officer Pantaleo, in January of 2016.
Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins said that NYPD has made Sgt. Adonis their “scapegoat,” the New York Daily News reported.
“She was at the borough [office] when it happened,” Mullins said. “What she did was what you’d want any sergeant to do. She took a leadership position and went to the scene.”
He pointed out that none of the other officials who got involved in the incident – a plainclothes anti-crime sergeant, the duty captain, and the platoon commander - have been accused of failure to supervise.
“They all need to lose their jobs,” Gwen Garner told The New York Times.
Activist Kirsten John Foy, the founder of Arc of Justice, told WPIX that he took exception to the Police Benevolent Association president’s press conference after Commissioner O’Neill’s announcement and accused Patrick Lynch of channeling “Bam-Bam” from the Flintstones and running an all-white boys club.
“It’s interesting. If you juxtaposed the PBA’s press conference with our press conference, you can see a stark contrast,” Foy said. “You mean to tell me you couldn’t find any women to stand with you? You couldn’t find any people of color who wear the badge to stand with you? This was an all-white men’s show.”
Gwen Garner complained to WPIX that Lynch never had anything nice to say about her son.
“It’s terrible to have a person like that as a union rep,” she said. “I mean, he has no compassion. He’s talking all about the police. That police officer murdered my son. He never speaks about that. It’s always negativity when it comes to him speaking about Eric.”
“But his police officer,” she continued. “They had to pay three lawsuits because of this officer and he’s ‘a decorated officer’ in their eyes.”
Officer Pantaleo was a 13-year veteran of the NYPD at the time of his firing.
Commissioner O’Neill said during the press conference announcing his termination that Officer Pantaleo had made hundreds of good arrests – many of them for gun charges.
The officer had never before had a complaint about having injured a suspect before Garner died during his arrest.
But Gwen Garner was having none of the sympathy that was extended to Officer Pantaleo.
“Pantaleo, you may have lost your job, but I lost a son. You cannot replace that. You can get another job, maybe at Burger King,” the mother told The New York times.
She has continued to beat the drum of accountability.
“I want NYPD to take a stand and the superiors to hold their officers accountable when necessary. It can’t be a one-way street,” she told WPIX. “It looks like we are always the bad person. No, it’s not like that. You see, these officers are killing so many unarmed people. Make them stand accountable. Let them know that there are penalties when it comes to this.”
Garner’s mother has said that she wants a new grand jury to review the facts of the case because she believes officers lied on the stand to the first grand jury.
“For instance, many of the officers filed false reports stating that Eric had something upwards of 10,000 cigarettes which was the predicate they used for stopping him which we know to be false,” Foy told WPIX. “We also know that there was a grand jury who refused to indict. Well, maybe those officers perjured themselves. We need the district attorney to release the transcript of the grand jury and then finally, there’s an opportunity for the new district attorney to empanel a new grand jury to present the evidence before a new grand jury in light of the decisions of the department.”
An NYPD sergeant told Blue Lives Matter that if the department goes forward with the prosecution of Sgt. Adonis for an incident that occurred before she arrived on the scene, things are going to get very tricky for officials.
“Supervisors are going to be pushing decisions up the line,” he said. “Probably going to the platoon commander and the captain to make decisions for them.”