An NYPD trainer testified Tuesday that the maneuver used by Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo to force an unarmed black father to the ground was the “definition of a choke hold.”
The testimony came during the departmental trial of Pantaleo regarding his role in the July 2014 death of Eric Garner, according to the New York Daily News.
Garner died during a confrontation with Pantaleo and a group of other New York cops on New York’s Staten Island as they tried to arrest him for allegedly selling “loosies” — untaxed, loose cigarettes.
Video of the confrontation went viral, with Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” becoming a rallying cry in the fight against police brutality.
A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in Garner’s death. But if the officer is found guilty of contributing to Garner’s death through the use of a choke hold, a maneuver banned by the NYPD, Pantaleo could be fired. After Garner died, Pantaleo was placed on desk duty and has been collecting an NYPD check since.
On the first day of the hearing Monday, Pantaleo’s lawyer claimed his client used an NYPD-approved “seatbelt” maneuver, not a choke hold, to control Garner. He also said Pantaleo did not touch Garner’s neck, despite what viral video of the incident appeared to show.
“He is merely trying to control [Garner], to cuff him,” lawyer Stuart London said Monday, according to the News. “There is no evidence he applied pressure to his neck at all.”
But on Tuesday, after watching video evidence, Inspector Richard Dee, head of training at the New York Police Department’s Police Academy, “said the position Pantaleo had when he wrapped his hand around Garner’s neck ‘meets the definition of a choke hold,’” the News reports.
Dee also testified that there was no way Pantaleo could have used the approved seatbelt maneuver because it was not taught at the Police Academy until 2011 — five years after Pantaleo went through training as a new recruit, according to the News.
The departmental trial is being prosecuted by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, New York’s police watchdog agency.
In his opening statement Monday, CCRB prosecutor Jonathan Fogel said video of the incident showed clearly that Pantaleo used lethal force that led to Garner’s death, the New York Times reports.
“It is an outrage that Eric Garner is not alive today,” Fogel said, the Times reports. “He did not deserve a death sentence over loosies.”