The autopsy report on the death of Eric Garner, that became available to lawyers representing PO Daniel Pantaleo in his NYPD disciplinary case, demonstrates conclusively that Mr. Garner did not die of strangulation of the neck from a chokehold which would have caused a crushed larynx (windpipe) and a fractured hyoid bone. The report notes that Mr. Garner’s windpipe and hyoid bone were both intact.
Lawyers for PO Daniel Pantaleo have sought the autopsy report for years — even unsuccessfully petitioning the court to obtain it — in order to see the critical information it contained about the unfortunate and tragic death of Mr. Garner. The report has been made available as discovery information in the CCRB’s disciplinary case against PO Pantaleo who has been falsely accused of strangling Mr. Garner to death.
The report, which was part of the evidence presented to the Grand Jury that exonerated Pantaleo of any criminal wrong doing, was not available to the officer’s lawyers because there was no criminal trial where the autopsy report would have been obtained through discovery. The availability of the autopsy findings was also stymied when the City Comptroller, Scott Stringer, granted a nearly $6 million settlement with the Garner family absent the filing of a civil suit which would have resulted in a trial that would have put the autopsy report into evidence.
PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said:
“This case demonstrates the danger that is inherent in pre-judging incidents absent all of the information that must be considered in order to come to a truthful and accurate conclusion. The death of Eric Garner was tragic and we feel for the family’s loss, but there has been a false narrative built against PO Pantaleo by the emotion on the street instead of the facts. Sadly, Mr. Garner’s health was so poor that it is highly likely that if he had decided to flee police instead of fighting them, the end result would have been the same. The exertion and stress would have overcome his already seriously ill body and would have resulted in his death.
“In retrospect, PO Pantaleo used the least amount of force necessary to effect this arrest. Letting Mr. Garner go free was not an option because he was a repeat offender against whom there were more complaints of illegal activity from the community. The officer did not hit Garner with his hands, he did not strike him in any way nor did he draw his weapon in order to gain compliance with a lawful order. He did not use pepper spray or any other more forceful method to take Mr. Garner into custody. He simply used leverage against a much larger, much stronger man to bring him to the ground in order to complete the arrest. PO Pantaleo did precisely what he was trained to do in the Police Academy and that was to use as little force as is necessary to gain compliance. In view of this new information and in consideration of an unsolicited, published medical assessment of what occurred that tragic day by a doctor who specializes in surgery on morbidly obese patients, all disciplinary charges against PO Pantaleo should be dropped immediately and he should return to work.”
“A Medical Perspective on the Garner Tragedy” written by a surgeon who specializes in morbidly obese patients, G. Wesley Clark, MD, and published in “The American Thinker” on December 8, 2014, states “…I believe that the cause of Mr. Garner’s death was not ‘police brutality’ or negligence, but rather the unfortunate synergy between his disease of morbid obesity and actions most police perform countless times with only transient discomfort to the arrestee.” Dr, Clark goes on to say: “Mr. Garner’s demise was the consequence of a confluence of many factors, most of which were beyond the ken of a policeman, and which occurred in devastatingly rapid sequence.” Dr. Clark also noted that due to Mr. Garner’s obesity and observations made by multiple reviews of the video, that: “The chokehold was ineffective as a control, but served to take him [Garner] to the ground by leverage.”
Dr. Clark concludes: “A normal and healthy male would have been transiently distressed by the actions of the arresting officers. Mr. Garner had no margin of safety, no reserve at all, and was precariously unstable even before he was accosted. The actions of the arresting officers, undoubtedly used many times before without significant ill effect, combined with Garner’s pathophysiology to rapidly produce hypoxia, very likely aggravated by carbon dioxide retention and narcosis, which suppresses the normal reflex to breathe. This was rapidly followed by cardiac arrhythmia and death.”