Community groups, activists and the family of the Black man who died after being placed in a chokehold are becoming vocal about holding the police accountable.
The family of Eric Garner and a number of activists and civil rights organizations are now calling for the prosecution of the New York City police officer who placed the 43-year-old Staten Island man in the chokehold that proved to be fatal.
Their calls came just days after the New York City medical examiner stated that Garner died from a chokehold as police officers were attempting to arrest him for suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The medical examiner labeled Garner’s death as a homicide.
“We’re looking for an indictment either on federal or state charges of the officers involved,” said Kirsten Foy, president of the Brooklyn Chapter of the National Action Network, in an interview with BET.com. “We would like to see murder charges from the state but that doesn’t happen often with police officers. But this case has been unprecedented in many ways.”
Foy called for the prosecution of Daniel Pateleo, the officer who applied the chokehold, a practice banned by the police department. He also called for the prosecution of the officers on the scene of the incident on a Staten Island sidewalk.
“The other officers who acted as accomplices were partially responsible for Eric’s death,” Foy said. “All of those officers played a part. They all watched him fall to the ground and die. Many of them were complicit.” He was referring to scenes of the incident captured on a videotape recorded by a bystander, Ramsey Orta.
The calls for the prosecution of the officers came from a number of other quarters.
"The police officers involved in this homicide must be held accountable for Mr. Garner's death and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, in a statement.
"The autopsy report has confirmed what New Yorkers and, indeed, people throughout the world saw on the videotape,” Ifill said.”Mr. Garner was choked to death by the police for no discernible reason. The New York City Police Department's patrol guide clearly and unequivocally bans the use of any pressure to the throat or windpipe which may prevent or hinder breathing to reduce intakes of air.”
She continued: “Yet the video of the violent police encounter with Mr. Garner leaves no doubt that the patrol guide's mandate was flagrantly violated and that not one police officer on the scene intervened or otherwise sought to ensure Mr. Garner's safety."
Over the weekend, officers arrested Orta, the man who captured the incident with Garner on videotape, charging him with criminal possession of a weapon. Police said Orta had attempted to pass the weapon to a teenage friend before being arrested.
Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan
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(Photo: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)