New York City

‘Jumped on His Back': Witness Testifies Seeing Cop With Arm Around Garner's Neck, NYPD Training Official Says Video Shows ‘Chokehold' in Day Two of Trial

What to Know

  • Second day of NYPD cop's departmental trial featured witness that testified seeing Daniel Pantaleo putting his arm around Eric Garner's neck
  • Pantaleo allegedly used a banned chokehold on the 43-year-old New York City father who died in 2014
  • Deputy Inspector Richard Dee of the NYPD is also scheduled to take the stand Tuesday; He will likely testify on chokeholds

The head of the New York Police Department's recruit training said during the second day of the discuplinary trial of officer Daniel Pantaleo that video shows that a restraint technique used on Eric Garner in 2014 "meets the definition of a chokehold."

Deputy Inspector Richard Dee said Tuesday video shows that a restraint technique used on Eric Garner in 2014 "meets the definition of a chokehold."

Dee also says that coughing heard on the video indicates Garner's breathing was restricted by the hold.

Dee says recruits are explicitly warned that chokeholds are banned and they're instructed to disengage when they realize they're using a chokehold.

Pantaleo is accused of hastening Garner's death. His lawyer says the officer used an approved technique known as a "seat-belt hold."

But Dee says there is no record of Pantaleo's receiving training in that move.

The second day of Pantaleo’s departmental trial kicked off with a witness who also said he saw Pantaleo putting his arm around the neck of the 43-year-old New York City father who died after Pantaleo allegedly used a banned chokehold on him in 2014.

Staten Island resident Michael Lewis testified that he saw Pantaleo, who is seen on video wearing a football jersey with the number 99, put his arm around Eric Garner’s neck.

“That’s when 99 jumped on his back, with his arm, around his neck,” he said.

The medical examiner is scheduled to testify Wednesday.

These latest developments come the day after the disciplinary hearing kicked off amid protests. The first day of trial proved to be emotional as Garner’s sister left a Manhattan courtroom wailing when the now infamous video of the arrest that led to his death was played.

Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, also left in tears Monday as the video of her son saying "I can't breathe" repeatedly as he gasps for air during that July 2014 confrontation was played on the opening day of officer Daniel Pantaleo's departmental trial. Garner's dying words, captured in widely watched cellphone video, became a rallying cry for a national movement against police brutality.

"These are just tears from heaven," said Carr as rain fell outside the courthouse. "Eric is crying from heaven because he sees his motherand his family still trying to fight for justice for him."

Pantaleo and other officers were trying to handcuff Garner, an unarmed black man, after stopping him on a city street corner for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, when Garner started to struggle. He later died.

The medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide caused in part by the cop's apparent chokehold. He was heavyset and had asthma, which were also contributing factors, the medical examiner's office said.

In opening statements, a prosecutor for the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the police watchdog agency bringing the case against Pantaleo, described the video footage, saying the officer using a "strictly prohibited chokehold."

"Officer Pantaleo buries this helpless man into the pavement, indifferent to his cries for help," the prosecutor said as the video was shown.

The video was played as the man who took it, Ramsey Orta, testified from prison, where he is serving time for drug and weapon charges. During cross-examination, Orta said Pantaleo's arm wasn't around Garner's neck when he uttered, "I can't breathe."

Orta also backed off a claim he had made to internal affairs investigators two days after Garner's death that Pantaleo had his knee on Garner's back for five to 10 seconds. The video showed it was not on his back.

Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart London, had argued at a department hearing last month though that the NYPD's chief surgeon ruled in 2014 that the cop hadn't used a chokehold. He re-upped his insistence in opening statements Monday, saying Pantaleo "did not use a chokehold but a neckhold, an approved method ... it's called a seat belt technique. The purpose is to take the individual down."

He also blamed Garner's health for his demise, saying the Staten Island father "died from being morbidly obese ... coupled with chronic asthma. He was a ticking time bomb who set these factors in motion by resisting arrest."

London also used those now infamous words, "I can't breathe," against Garner, saying, "We know he wasn't choked out because he is speaking." He said it was a misconception that those words were said when Pantaleo's hands were around Garner's neck, saying it happened when multiple cops tried to cuff him.

Emergency medical technicians casually strolled up to the scene without oxygen or other measures that could have helped Garner, who was so medically fragile that even a bear hug might have led to the same consequences, London said.

"The only one that did their job that day, I will submit, is officer Pantaleo," he said, adding Pantaleo feared for his life when he felt Garner was trying to push him toward a plate glass window.

Pantaleo, who is white and has been on desk duty since Garner's death, could face penalties ranging from the loss of vacation days to firing if he's found to have violated department rules. He has consistently denied wrongdoing and did not speak to reporters as he left his Staten Island home Monday morning.

Pantaleo does not face criminal charges; a grand jury declined to indict him the year Garner died, prompting days-long protests and marches across the city.

The NYPD decided to go forward with the disciplinary case against Pantaleo last year as it ran out of patience with the federal government's indecision about bringing a criminal case.

If convicted, Pantaleo could face punishment ranging from the loss of vacation days to firing.

Garner's family received $5.9 million from the city in 2015 to settle a wrongful death claim. Federal prosecutors have until July to file civil rights charges against Pantaleo.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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