Eric Garner’s mother speaks out on first days of NYPD judicial inquiry

Getty Images/Jeenah Moon

(NEW YORK) — Petitioners in the judicial inquiry over the death of Eric Garner, who was killed by NYPD officers during an arrest for the alleged selling of untaxed cigarettes, are speaking out as the proceedings continue.

The petitioners represent leaders of the community fighting against racial injustice, including Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr. Together, they hope that the line of questioning will offer more insight and transparency into the fatal 2014 incident.

In a video conference with reporters, the petitioners called for the firing of officers involved in the incident who are testifying.

“I am sick and tired of listening to the lies,” Carr said. “These officers should not be on the force. They should have been fired immediately.”

The unique proceeding is hosting 13 NYPD officers and sergeants, who are testifying on the events surrounding Garner’s arrest, death and the alleged leak of several documents related to Garner and the incident. It will not result in any charges for those involved or any legal rulings.

On July 17, 2014, Garner was suspected by NYPD police officers Daniel Pantaleo and Justin D’Amico of selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner denied the accusation, but the police then tried to arrest the 43-year-old Black man.

Pantaleo used a prohibited chokehold that has been banned by the NYPD since the 1990s on Garner in order to detain him. Garner told officers “I can’t breathe” 11 times before falling unconscious.

Garner was left lying on the sidewalk for several minutes while officers waited for an ambulance to arrive, and was declared dead at the hospital.

Pantaleo, who committed the chokehold that led to Garner’s death will not be involved in the inquiry. He was fired in 2019 following a department disciplinary trial for using a banned chokehold method. Pantaleo was not indicted in Garner’s death.

He denies any wrongdoing. Garner’s family reached a $5.9 million settlement with the city over the incident.

Christopher Bannon, who was a special operations lieutenant at the time of Garner’s death, texted shortly after the incident that Garner’s death was “not a big deal” because he believed the arrest was lawful. On Monday, Bannon further testified that he still believes the arrest was lawful.

“My son lay dead on the ground and he said it wasn’t a big deal,” Carr said. “Well, officer Bannon, it was a big deal to me. That was my son. You had no sympathy or empathy for him.”

D’Amico admitted in testimony to falsities and mistakes he made when filing the initial incident report in his testimony; he claimed that no physical force was used during Garner’s arrest, and he also charged Garner with a tax-avoidance felony.

Garner only had four sealed packs of cigarettes on him, as well as an opened fifth pack that contained 15 cigarettes, however, a felony charge usually applies only to people in possession of at least 10,000 cigarettes.

D’Amico also claimed in testimony this week that he never heard Garner say that he couldn’t breathe.

Deputy Commissioner of Internal Affairs Joseph Reznick said in testimony that the Internal Affairs Bureau did not punish or investigate D’Amico for logging the false charge or falsity in the report, nor did they investigate media leaks of Garner’s medical and arrest history.

Petitioners on the press conference detested the actions being revisited and defended by officials.

“It’s horrendous that we are seven years later and they’re continuing to lie and they’re continuing to be on the force and that the mayor and commissioner have not made any substantive changes to hold these officers responsible,” said Kesi Foster, a petitioner from social advocacy organization Make the Road New York.

Several social justice organizations have joined Carr in what she said is a fight to seek justice for her son.

“Many of these kinds of offenses should be immediately fireable offenses,” said Joo-Hyun Kang, executive director of advocacy group Communities United for Police Reform and petitioner in the case.

“When you’re really talking about trying to end or reduce police violence that cannot happen unless you reduce the outside bloated budget, the bloated size, the outsized power, and the scope of the NYPD,” she added. “We have to reduce and limit the situations where officers are interacting with New Yorkers.”

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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