July 26, 2014

Eric Garner's family speaks publicly about NYPD



The families of two men whose separate confrontations with the NYPD were captured on amateur video appeared together at the Rev. Al Sharpton's storefront headquarters to demand an end to what they denounced as police brutality.

Esaw Garner, the widow of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after city police put him in a banned chokehold on July 17, said her husband "was a quiet man. But, he is making a lot of noise now."

Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr added: "I know my son was a good son."

The Garner family was joined at the National Action Network in Harlem by Jah-miel Cuffee, 32, who was subdued by NYPD officers on July 23 on Malcolm X Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant after police reportedly saw him in possession of marijuana.

During the encounter, which was videotaped by onlookers, an NYPD officer can be seen stomping on Cuffee, who was already being pinned on the ground by two other officers.

An NYPD spokesman said the officer who stomped Cuffee has been placed on modified assignment. Police did not identify the officer.

Cuffee, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, spoke Saturday while holding his 21-month old son, Mijahel. Cuffee had a visible bruise on the left side of his head from the stomp and complained of scrapes and dizziness. "I am a little sore but I will be all right," said Cuffee.

Cuffee's sister, Rashida Rahim, said her brother was defenseless when he was stomped by the officer.

"This has to stop," said Rahim, 39, of Englewood, N.J. "We need to have justice."

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said Saturday that videotapes do not present all of the facts in a confrontation with police.

"They never capture the criminal act or offense that brings police action to the scene," Lynch said. "They present an isolated period of a police interaction but never the entire scenario. That's why it is necessary when video tapes surface to have a complete review of the facts in every case before arriving at any conclusion."

Also attending the National Action Network rally Saturday was Nicole Bell, whose fiancé, Sean Bell, an unarmed man who was shot 50 times by undercover police officers outside of a Queens strip club in 2006. Bell said she felt a kinship with the Garner family.

"It's like looking in a mirror," she said.

Sharpton said Saturday that he and the Garner family are scheduled to meet on Monday with Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr.

They plan to ask Donovan to pass jurisdiction in the Garner case to the federal government for potential prosecutions. They are calling for the arrests of the police officers who wrestled Garner to the ground and the medics the family says failed to treat him after he was down.

"There can be no doubt that at some point in 11 cries of 'I can't breathe,' that intent is established. There can be no doubt, based on the videotapes," Sharpton said Friday.

He was referring to cellphone video shot July 17 by bystanders that shows police accusing Garner of peddling untaxed cigarettes, putting him in a chokehold, pushing him to the ground and kneeing his face into the pavement as he says, "I can't breathe."

In a statement Friday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, "We are closely monitoring the city's investigation."

Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said federal authorities are not investigating the case.

Douglas C. Auer, spokesman for Staten Island District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan Jr., had no comment about the family's demands.