STEP ONE: Choke hold on unarmed man. STEP TWO: Smile and wave to the people who watched you do it.
STEP ONE: Choke hold on unarmed man. STEP TWO: Smile and wave to the people who watched you do it.

I have watched the video of Eric Garner’s homicide many times. A few of those times I tried to find cops doing the right thing. Oh, at least that one is holding him up on his side. Well, I guess that one is kinda sorta watching to see if he is breathing.

Each time I watch, it strikes me how nonthreatening Eric Garner is when confronted. He towers above the cop, yet makes no aggressive moves. Instead, he waits for a team of police officers to show up. Soon after, he is on the ground, still not putting up a physical fight and still with his big hands open and pleading: I can’t breathe.

For me, even more haunting than Eric Garner’s desperate plea for air, are the words uttered by one of the police on the scene: It’s now going to become a crime scene.

When Eric Garner becomes unconscious, one of the police officers tells the people filming the scene: Back up, back up, BACK UP! It is a crime scene.

Whose crime? I ask myself. Eric Garner’s? Or the officer’s?

What happened here that must so quickly be preserved and distanced from onlookers?

Why are the police not rendering aid?

Why are they treating this man on the ground as if he were already dead?

Murder in progress.


Eric Garner’s widow has not yet included in her civil suit the four paramedics who failed to render aid to her husband who lay, possibly lifeless, on a dirty sidewalk. In fact, one of them casually chatted up the cops on the scene. From the reports on the scene, it is clear that the police gave orders. both verbally and non-verbally, indicating he required no aid.

And the EMT, Nicole Palmeri–oh that pains me even more–takes no initiative as the highest medical authority on the scene. She checks Garner’s pulse, then walks away.

From the NY Daily News,  The Lonesome Death of Eric Garner:

PASSING CAR, PUMPING NICKI MINAJ: “Pills and potions / We’re overdosing / I’m angry but I still love you.”

COP TO GARNER: “Sir, EMS is here. Answer their questions, OK?”

VOICE: “He can’t breathe!”

EMT Nicole Palmeri checks Garner’s pulse but does nothing else.

PALMERI: “Sir. It’s EMS. C’mon. We’re here to help, all right. We’re here to help you. We’re getting the stretcher. All right?”

GARNER: Silence.

Palmeri walks off.

A bit later, the cops and medics finally decide to get Garner into an ambulance.

COP: “We’re going to try to get him up on the stretcher. It’s going to take like six of us.”

They hoist him up and literally drop him onto a gurney. Or at least the left side of him. One cop catches his legs falling off.

Another holds Garner’s shirt, apparently to keep the rest of him from rolling off the gurney. Garner’s belly is exposed. He appears to be unconscious.

VOICE: “Why nobody do no CPR?”

VOICE: “Nobody did nothing.”

COP (as he walks by): “Because he’s breathing.”

The camera turns to Pantaleo, about 20 feet away. He waves and steps out of the picture. The camera shifts back to Garner strapped to the gurney and being wheeled away.

The cops walk off behind him. A few people walk out of a store, back to the street.


EMT Palmeri checking for a pulse without bringing any medical equipment with her to the scene.

Even though Palmeri one other EMT were suspended without pay, they are now edging their way back into the business of rendering aid. “Reinstatement process ongoing for the 2 EMTs involved in Eric Garner incident,” FDNY says.

In the midst of a tragedy, we have the horror of a negligent emergency medical response. A response the onlookers called for, begged for. Must onlookers urge EMTs to do their job, to give Eric Garner a chance to go home to his wife?

I ask you, in the strongest possible way, to watch this video of a trained emergency worker explaining what was done and what should should have been done to aid Eric Garner.

Be informed on this. It is how the power structure accomplishes what it does. Not by itself, but with silence and cooperation. After watching, please consider making a donation to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the nation’s first minority volunteer ambulance corps, founded in 1988 in response to the crisis in emergency medical services afflicting America’s minority communities.


“We’ve got to collect the dots before we connect the dots,” says District Attorney Dan Donovan.





That’s a perfectly tidy little District Attorney media statement. IF THERE WASN’T A VIDEO OF A MAN BEING STRANGLED AND DENIED THE OXYGEN WE ALL NEED IN ORDER TO KEEP OUR HEARTS PUMPING AND OUR BRAIN FUNCTIONING. I mean, you know, those dots. The ones we can watch frame by frame, and listen to second by second.

Or how about this dot, Mister Connector: the one where Eric Garner’s death was ruled a homicide?

But now that the dots have been connected and the Grand Jury has returned a decision, a clearer picture emerges.

Jeffrey Fagan, a law professor at Columbia who specializes in police accountability and criminal law, says he was “not surprised” by the grand jury’s decision:

“It’s politically costly for Dan Donovan to indict a police officer on Staten Island. He can easily shift the political and legal burden to the Department of Justice to decide whether to pursue criminal charges. He’s washed his hands of it.”

Eric Garner with his grandchild, now deprived of a grandparent whose life has been deemed too cheap to match the political cost on an indictment.


News continues to break: yet another unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police. Before that, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot within 2 seconds of police arriving on the scene.

Would you stand for this if it was happening to a group of blonde American tourists while visiting a foreign country?

But don’t answer the above with a reflexive no and move on. Really think about it.

What would you be willing to do to save those people from being slain in a foreign land without any chance at a hearing or a trial or even a chance to tell you why they should continue to live?

Because that is what you should be doing for our people in our own country.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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