On July 19, 2014, unarmed Staten Island resident Eric Garner was taken down to the ground by police officers, and eventually died after an officer applied an outlawed chokehold known as the “seat belt.”
Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, put Garner in the lethal chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy. The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping, “I can’t breathe.” He later was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide caused in part by the chokehold, but police union officials and Pantaleo’s lawyer have argued that the officer used a takedown move taught by the police department, not a chokehold and that Garner’s poor health was the main reason he died.
Garner’s death and the death of several other unarmed Black men across the country have spurred nationwide protests and initiatives, most notably the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The officer that applied the fatal chokehold to Garner was not charged by a grand jury; he remains employed as an officer today. Instead, the bystander that took the viral video of Garner’s takedown was slapped with a bogus weapons charge.
Four years after Garner’s death, several Black males, some not even adults, died at the hands of NYPD and law enforcement across the country. Garner’s death and others including 15-year-old Kimani Gray, Ramarley Graham, Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio and countless others that many say will never receive the justice deserved for their loss of life.