The Black Man’s Injustice

Eric Garner (September 15, 1970 – July 17, 2014) , a Staten Island native, went into cardiac arrest and died after NYPD officers put him in a chokehold. The 43-year-old,  6’3” father of six, who was asthmatic, can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” several times in the video footage of his death, and the city’s chief medical examiner confirmed that much on August 1, when he ruled Garner’s death a “homicide by chokehold.”

Garner was approached in front of a beauty supply store at 202 Bay Street in the Tompkinsville neighborhood in Staten Island when plainclothes police officer Justin Damico for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner had broken up a fight which brought the police to the scene. A New York City Police Department officer, Daniel Pantaleo, put Garner in a chokehold. The event caused public outcry and rallies with charges of police brutality and was broadcast nationally over various media networks. The chokehold tactic is prohibited by the NYPD. As a result of Garner’s death, four EMTs and paramedics who responded to Garner after he was put in a chokehold were suspended without pay on July 21, 2014, and officers Justin Damico and Daniel Pantaleo were stripped of their service guns and badges and placed on desk duty.

After telling the police officers, “I was just minding my own business. Every time you see me you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today!” Garner raised both his arms in the air and was then put in a chokehold from behind by officer Daniel Pantaleo, in order to be subdued. While Garner repeatedly stated he was not able to breathe, other officers struggled to bring him down onto the sidewalk and have him put his arms behind his back. The video shows officer Pantaleo using his hands to push Garner’s face into the sidewalk. He died a few minutes later.

Video showed police waiting seven minutes before giving Garner CPR. Use of the chokehold has been prohibited by New York Police Department policy since 1993. Garner’s death was recorded by Ramsey Orta, a friend of Garner’s. The final autopsy report in Garner’s death showed that Garner did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system and had no head trauma. The NY Times reported that the autopsy suggests his obesity and health problems combined with pinning him to the ground and bringing him down with a chokehold may have caused his fatal heart attack.

Michael Brown (May 20, 1996 – August 9, 2014), an 18-year-old, was shot multiple times by suburban St. Louis police officer Darren Wilson and was unarmed when he died. Brown had recently graduated from high school and was about to enter a local college.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the shooting occurred after an officer encountered two people — one of whom was Brown — on the street near an apartment complex Saturday afternoon in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb a few miles north of downtown St. Louis. Belmar said one of the men pushed the officer back into his squad car and a struggle began. Belmar said at least one shot was fired from the officer’s gun inside the police car. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said authorities were still sorting out what happened inside the police car. It was not clear if Brown was the man who struggled with the officer. According to USA Today, on Sunday, August 10th, the day after Brown was killed, Brown’s parents retain attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, as their counsel.

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