New York Daily News

August 8, 2014


NYPD Chief Philip Banks remains silent on death of Eric Garner, which resulted from an investigation he ordered

Banks sent a sergeant from his office in July to investigate complaints about the sale of illegal cigarettes in Staten Island. A tipster had complained about a group of men, one named Eric, selling untaxed cigarettes. Cops eventually confronted Eric Garner. Banks has yet to speak about the confrontation.



Chief Philip Banks gave the orders to investigate the sale of illegal cigarettes in Staten Island, which ultimately led to the death of Eric Garner.


The police crackdown on the sale of illegal cigarettes that led to a fatal confrontation in Staten Island drew strong reactions from familiar foes — but nothing from the man at Police Headquarters who sources say put it in motion.

Chief Philip Banks, the highest ranking uniformed officer in the NYPD, sent a sergeant from his office last month to investigate complaints about the sale of 75-cent loosies, a source told The News. It was the same low-level offense police say they were investigating on July 17 when police approached Eric Garner.

The 43-year-old father of six died that afternoon and the medical examiner ruled it a homicide due to a police chokehold and chest compressions. Shocking video first posted by showed Officer Daniel Pantaleo with his arm wrapped around Garner’s neck.

Pat Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, has denied Pantaleo used a chokehold, a tactic banned by the NYPD since 1993. In response to The News story about the crackdown, Lynch said Thursday that it didn’t matter who ordered it. Cops have a responsibility to respond to complaints, he said.

“If the neighborhood complains, you can’t ignore it,” Lynch said on WABC radio. “We don’t get to pick and choose what crimes we’re going to follow up and investigate.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has called for an arrest in the Garner case, said there’s something far more sinister behind the crackdown.

“If this is a citywide initiative, why are the black and Latino areas the only ones being targeted?” he asked.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has had to deal with calls for an arrest in the Eric Garner death.

A 311 caller on March 27 complained about a group of men, one named Eric, who had been selling untaxed cigarettes on Bay St. in Staten Island for three years, a police source said. Garner was arrested the next day, one of three cases pending against him at the time of his death.

“He was a target,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told The News. “(Police) had it out for him.”

The office of the chief of department — headed by Banks — discussed Bay St. and quality of life issues at a meeting in March at 1 Police Plaza, a source said. His office conducted surveillance on that street and even took photos of people suspected of selling illegal cigarettes, the source said.

Banks didn’t respond to requests by The News for comment.

With Jennifer Fermino and Thomas Tracy