New York Daily News

December 4, 2014


 

'The time for remorse was when my husband was yelling to breathe': Eric Garner's widow lashes out at NYPD cop who put her husband in fatal chokehold


Esaw Garner shouted her fiery statement during a press conference after a grand jury in Staten Island decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who offered his condolences to the Garner family for their loss. 'No, I do not accept his apology,' the widow said, standing next to Rev. Al Sharpton. 'I could care less about his condolences. My husband is 6 feet under.'

BY KERRY BURKE, TINA MOORE, THOMAS TRACY, ROCCO PARASCANDOLA, CORKY SIEMASZKO

Eric Garner's widow shouted two fiery words of rebuke when asked if she accepted words of condolence from the cop who killed her husband with a chokehold: “Hell no!”

Hours after the Daily News was the first to inform Esaw Garner of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, she clearly wanted no part of the cop.

“The time for remorse was when my husband was yelling to breathe,” she said, referring to Eric Garner’s last words. “That would have been the time for him to show some remorse or some type of care for another human being’s life.”

After Pantaleo was cleared by the Staten Island grand jury, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association released a statement on the cop’s behalf. “I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss,” he said.

Garner’s widow was clear.

“No, I don’t accept his apology,” she said Wednesday night at the Harlem headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. “I could care less about his condolences. My husband is 6 feet under. (The cop) is still working. He’s still collecting a paycheck and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids.”

Sharpton abruptly ended the press conference and started to usher the grieving woman away from the podium. She shouted one last plea:

“Who’s going to play Santa Claus for my grandchildren?”

After returning home from the press conference, the widow compared her husband’s death “to a modern day lynching.”

As for the grand jury, she said, “They had to get 12 to agree and they probably got 12 white motherf-----s to say no.”

Hours earlier, she told The News the disturbing video of her husband in the clutches of a fatal police chokehold should have been enough for an indictment.

“I’m very disappointed,” she said, her voice rising with shock and anger. “You can see in the video that (the cop) was dead wrong!”

The doomed dad could be heard in the video saying 11 times, “I can’t breathe.”

Garner’s 19-year-old son, Eric Snipes, also chimed in, calling the decision “insane.”

“Oh man, this is not fair,” he told The News. “It’s not fair how he could get away with murder. I feel disgusted. I’m never going to see my pops again.”

“The grand jury needs to come talk to me and tell me why they’re not indicting this guy. That’s what the grand jury needs to do. Come tell me in person why they’re not indicting this guy.”

The Garners poured out their anger as:

Mayor de Blasio — who called Wednesday a “painful day for so many New Yorkers” — said he spoke with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and that the Justice Department is pushing ahead with its own probe of Pantaleo’s actions.

Holder and Brooklyn federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch confirmed that a federal investigation into Garner’s death will proceed. Holder said “potential federal civil rights violations” will be investigated. Lynch, who has been nominated to replace Holder, promised a “fair and thorough” probe.

Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stu London, said the cop was shown at least three videos during his grand jury appearance and answered more than 20 questions.

“He indicated he used a takedown method that was taught in the academy. He was concerned about going through the plate glass window,” the lawyer said. “He indicated any contact his arm had with the neck was incidental. He never applied any pressure to the neck, nor did he intend to.”

Patrick Lynch, president of the PBA, said, “We are pleased with the grand jury’s decision.”

“It is clear that the officer’s intention was to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed and that he used the takedown technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused,” he said.

President Obama also weighed in.

“This is an issue we’ve been dealing with for too long and it’s time for us to make more progress than we’ve made,” he said. “We’re seeing too many incidences where people do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. When anybody in the country is not being treated equally under the law, it is my job as President to solve it.”

In Washington, the New York delegation to Congress denounced the decision as a “miscarriage of justice.”

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, whom many black borough residents view with suspicion because of his alleged pro-cop sympathies, defended the grand jury probe and said he was barred by law from divulging the details of the panel’s deliberations.

Given that this case is a matter “of special concern,” Donovan added he’s asked the court to unseal some of the testimony.

The panel’s decision was condemned by everyone from former Mayor David Dinkins and union leaders to Amnesty International.

“How can anyone in the community have faith in the system now?” asked Vincent Warren, head of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “First Ferguson, now Staten Island.”

But Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), who is facing federal tax evasion charges, was one of the few city lawmakers who defended the decision. He called it “fair and reasoned.”

Staten Island Borough President James Oddo called for calm, conceding that some “will agree with the results, people and many will not."

“We are one island, one borough and ultimately, one family,” he said. “Let’s act accordingly.”

“People are running up to each other saying, ‘You got a spare helmet or a belt? You got a holster?’” said one detective source.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who has vowed to crack down on any violence, was monitoring the the unfolding situation from police headquarters in Manhattan.

Earlier, Garner’s visibly upset stepfather, Benjamin Carr, said the grand jury decision “don’t make no sense.”

“I mean, I don’t understand it,” he said. “They lock a man up for a damn dogfight. They don’t lock this son of a bitch up for killing somebody.”

Carr’s friend, Jose Jimenez, said the grieving stepfather broke down crying when the decision was announced.

“He was saying, ‘I hope this officer gets time in jail because of what he did to my son,’” Jimenez said. “The family is going to be suffering, they're going to be crying a lot more.”

Over in Tompkinsville, by the strip of stores where Garner was killed on July 17, two dozen protesters chanted what turned out to be some of his final words, “I can’t breathe, no joke.”

Others tossed loose cigarettes on the ground and stomped on them — a reference to the so-called loosies Garner was allegedly peddling when cops stopped him.

“There is no justice,” said a furious 47-year-old Jeanette Johnson. “There will never be peace with us and the police. Ever.”

Jamillah Rivera, 25, said she saw Garner get wrestled to the ground and remembers the contempt Pantaleo showed them when they complained.

“The cop stuck up his middle finger to all of us,” she said. “He thought it was a big joke. How does someone like that go free?”

“All over America, cops are getting away with this,” added 22-year-old Demetri Green. “They’re the real gang in New York City. They’re the real gang in this county.”

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, was killed when Pantaleo subdued him with a banned chokehold.

Police said they approached Garner because he was selling unlicensed cigarettes and resisted arrest. They noted that Garner’s rap sheet listed 31 arrests, beginning when he was 16.

But Garner’s death sparked national outrage after the video of his deadly encounter with police was published by The News.

It later drew comparisons to Ferguson, Mo., where another black man — unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown — was killed in August by another white cop. And there was mayhem in that Missouri town last week when a local grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson.

Pantaleo, 29, an eight-year veteran of the force, was yanked off the street while Donovan and the Civilian Complaint Review Board launched probes. The medical examiner’s office later ruled Garner's death a homicide.

Pantaleo testified for more than two hours before the grand jury, answering more than 20 questions, sources said. But after four months of reviewing the evidence, a majority on the panel concluded there was not enough there to charge Pantaleo with manslaughter, reckless endangerment or criminally negligent homicide.

The 23-member grand jury, sources said, was comprised of 14 whites, with the rest being black or Hispanic.

Pantaleo is also being investigated by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau and faces possible departmental charges that could end his career. He remains on modified duty and has been warned to stay out of sight for his own safety, sources said.

The half-dozen officers who were with Pantaleo when he killed Garner, including a female sergeant, will also be investigated by Internal Affairs, sources said.

With Michael Graae, Erik Badia, Chelsia Rose Marcius, Dan Friedman, Adam Edelman and Bill Hutchinson.