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An NYPD lieutenant admitted Thursday that when he was notified about the 2014 fatal arrest of Eric Garner, he texted his subordinates, “not a big deal.”
On May 16, 120th Precinct Lt. Christopher Bannon testified during the police disciplinary trial of Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Pantaleo, who is currently on trial at NYPD headquarters, is accused of violating department policy and of recklessly using a chokehold on Garner over the alleged sale of loose cigarettes, reported the New York Times.
Garner, 43, died from an asthma attack after Pantaleo and other cops took him to the ground.
While Bannon testified on the stand, Civilian Complaint Review Board attorney Suzanne O’Hare displayed the text messages between Bannon and Sgt. Dhanan Saminath.
“Danny [Pantaleo] and Justin [D’Amico, Pantaleo’s partner] went to collar Eric Garner. When they took him down, Eric resisted,” Sgt. Saminath texted Bannon shortly after the arrest.
“[Garner] went into cardiac arrest. He’s unconscious,” the texts continued. “Might be DOA.”
Bannon, who was reportedly in a meeting at the time, wrote back, “Not a big deal. We were effecting a lawful arrest.”
As the text messages were read aloud, Garner’s relatives, who were seated in the gallery, audibly gasped in the courtroom.
Bannon testified he did not make the statements to appear insensitive but to help keep the officers involved calm.
“The reason was not to be malicious, [but] to make sure the officer knew he was put in a bad situation,” Bannon testified. “Trying to put their mind a little bit at ease.”
Garner’s family members said they were outraged by Bannon’s testimony and think he should be fired.
“If one of your loved ones and one of his loved ones was on the ground dead and someone comes up to you and said, ‘No big deal,’ how would you feel about it? I think this officer should be off the force. He shouldn’t be in charge of anybody,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told reporters outside the courtroom.
During his testimony, Bannon also gave Pantaleo a high-performance rating as a cop.
“He was one of the best officers I supervised,” Bannon said.
If found guilty of violating department policy, Pantaleo could face penalties up to and including termination.
Pantaleo’s trial is expected to continue Tuesday with more defense witnesses.