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Eric Garner's mother, activists press the mayor to prosecute

Gwen Carr highlighted past cases where cops were punished before the conclusion of external probes.

The de Blasio administration was criticized Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, for stopping the NYPD's civilian watchdog from prosecuting the police officer who put Eric Garner in an apparent choke hold before his death in 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

The de Blasio administration is telling “lies” to prevent the NYPD’s civilian watchdog from bringing discipline charges against the cop who the medical examiner said put arrestee Eric Garner in a banned fatal chokehold more than three years ago, Garner’s mother said Thursday.

At a rally outside City Hall, Gwen Carr disputed a contention from Mayor Bill de Blasio that a pending U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the case precludes the city from proceeding with discipline. She and her supporters highlighted past killings in which cops were punished before the conclusion of external probes.

“They are holding back. They are procrastinating. We must tell them they must stop procrastinating. They’re saying they have to wait on the DOJ. That’s not true,” Carr said outside City Hall. “We’re tired. We’ve been waiting for almost four years. Waiting time is over.”

Last year, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the NYPD’s watchdog, concluded that Officer Daniel Pantaleo used a banned chokehold and restricted Garner’s breathing during an arrest on Staten Island for selling loose cigarettes.

But de Blasio has said he is heeding the request of the Justice Department to delay proceedings until the pending federal probe is done.

The Justice Department has not confirmed the request publicly.

De Blasio spokesman Austin Finan said: “We share the family’s frustration. This process has taken too long and we once again urge DOJ to reach a conclusion. Until then, it would be irresponsible for the city to take any pre-emptive action that could hurt any future prosecution.”

Activists cited local and national cases such as one against Francis X. Livoti, an NYPD cop convicted in federal court in the death of Anthony Baez in the Bronx. Livoti put Baez in a chokehold after a football Baez was playing with hit Livoti’s car in 1994. The NYPD proceeded with an internal case in 1996, and moved to fire him in 1997, after he was acquitted of state charges, but before any federal case was brought.

The activists also cited the 2015 case of Walter Scott, an unarmed man shot to death in the back by a South Carolina police officer who claimed self-defense. The cop was fired a day after a video emerged contradicting the cop’s account, and two years before his federal conviction.

Pantaleo remains on the force.

Garner’s death in July 2014, captured on video by a bystander, — and his dying words, “I can’t breathe” — became an early impetus for the Black Lives Matter movement, which seeks to highlight what its backers consider inequitable and abusive policing of minorities.

On Thursday, as the activists rallied at the City Hall steps, the mayor walked into the building, escorted by his NYPD bodyguards. He did not acknowledge the activists.


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