Eric Garner Was Dying. At What Point Was the Officer Going to Stop Being Afraid?

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP/Shutterstock

From Esquire

Attorney General William Barr took time off from shining the White House silver to demonstrate that he's on the job in other areas of white supremacy as well. From CNN:

The decision to not pursue the charges against the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, came after a dispute between the teams, the official said. Barr made the decision after viewing the video showing Garner's takedown several times and quizzing both groups of attorneys. It is not unusual for the attorney general, as the head of the Justice Department, to make final prosecution calls. The divide between New York prosecutors and civil rights officials in Washington, DC, existed as well under the Obama administration, creating a stalemate that left the case unresolved before Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, CNN has reported.

As you can imagine, the winning side had some rather amazing things to say.

"This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law," Richard P. Donoghue, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a news conference Tuesday. "While willfulness may be inferred from blatantly wrongful conduct such as a gratuitous hit to the head, an officer's mistake, fear, misperception or even poor judgment does not constitute willful conduct under federal criminal civil rights law."

I guess my question is at what point should we have expected a trained law-enforcement officer not to be afraid still while he has a citizen in a fcking chokehold? Was he still afraid the first time Eric Garner said, "I can't breathe"? How about the second time? How about when Garner blacked out? Was the officer still afraid, or was that a "misperception," or perhaps, "poor judgment"? How about seconds before the officer killed Eric Garner? Was that a "mistake"? Jesus, some people will believe anything.

The decision announced Tuesday means that Pantaleo will not face any criminal charges related to Garner's death. Federal investigators have been examining the circumstances of Garner's death since 2014, after a grand jury in New York declined to indict the Staten Island officer. The city of New York settled with Garner's estate for $5.9 million in 2015. The NYPD has brought departmental charges against Pantaleo. If found guilty of using the chokehold and restricting Garner's breathing, he could face discipline ranging from loss of vacation days to the loss of his job.

That's ok. It will free him up to be the president*'s guest at next year's State of the Union.

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