Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Death of Eric Garner

Sean Davis at The Federalist has a good piece on the death of Eric Garner last summer. In case you missed it, Garner was illegally selling loose cigarettes on the streets of New York City last July 17. The police, charged with enforcing the absurd ordinance which prohibits this, tried to arrest him.

Garner, who was very large, refused to allow himself to be arrested although he did not try to harm or threaten the officers. At this point several officers sought to subdue Garner in order to handcuff him. One of the policemen, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, placed Garner in a choke hold that had been banned in the police department since the mid-nineties because it had resulted in several deaths nationwide. Garner was asphyxiated.

The whole thing was filmed by a witness. Here's the video, but you're cautioned that it's very hard to watch.
Garner does not appear to have been a thug and didn't deserve to be treated as if he were. Yesterday a grand jury declined to indict the policeman who employed the banned choke hold, and a lot of people are wondering why.

I want to give the police the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, and it is true that Mr. Garner was wrong not to follow the officers' commands to allow himself to be cuffed. Even so, his defiance did not merit his death, and it's hard to see how the officer responsible is not guilty of second degree manslaughter since a person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when he recklessly causes the death of another person. Davis writes:
The second-degree manslaughter charge requires only two factors: 1) the person charged must have caused the death of the victim, and 2) the perpetrator must have caused the death of the victim via reckless means. As the video shows, the officer clearly caused the death of Eric Garner, who was alive until the officer put him in a chokehold, a move which is banned by the NYPD for good reason.
This country was shaken by the Trayvon Martin/ George Zimmerman episode and the more recent Michael Brown/Darren Wilson shooting. I didn't think, based on the evidence, that either Zimmerman or Wilson should have been indicted, but I'm mystified as to why the officer who strangled Eric Garner was not indicted. I hope we'll soon hear the evidence that caused the grand jury to decide against it.

A lot of people are using this tragedy to once again stoke racial animosities but there's no indication that race played any role in this incident. In fact, the ranking police officer at the scene, the officer who supervised the arrest, was a black female sergeant named Kizzi Adoni.

What this appears to be is not an example of police racism, as much as the left might like to paint it in those colors, but rather a case of an excessive use of force.

Maybe there's a good reason for the grand jury's failure to indict Officer Pantaleo, but if so we should be told what it is. Otherwise, it appears that a man who recklessly caused the death of another is not going to be held to account, and that's not justice.