NEW YORK (AP) — The widow of a New York City man who died this month in a videotaped confrontation with New York City police demanded justice on Saturday, saying the victim wasn’t asking for trouble.
Eric Garner “was not a violent man — not in any way, shape or form,” said his widow, Esaw Garner, in what were described as her first public remarks about the death. “He was a quiet man, but he’s making a lot of noise now.”
She described getting a text from her 43-year-old husband a half hour before he died July 17 that read: “I’m good.”
The widow and other members of Garner’s family spoke at the Harlem headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton. On Friday, Sharpton and the family met with federal prosecutors to ask them to bring a civil rights case against the New York Police Department officers who stopped Garner on Staten Island on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes.
A video shot by an onlooker shows Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed. One responded by appearing to put him in a chokehold, which is banned under police policy. Garner is heard gasping “I can’t breathe.” He was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Autopsy results are pending.
The NYPD is investigating, Staten Island prosecutors have launched a criminal probe, the officer was placed on desk duty and other public safety workers involved have been pulled from the street. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also has said the Justice Department is “closely monitoring” the investigation into Garner’s death.
“We want justice for my son. … I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” said Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr.
Police also confirmed Saturday that another officer has been placed on restricted duty after an amateur video surfaced that appears to show him stomping on the head of a Brooklyn drug suspect during a recent arrest.
In a statement, the president of the powerful Patrolmen’s Association, cautioned against reading too much into the videos.
“Videotapes never present all of the facts in a situation,” said Patrick Lynch. “They never capture the criminal act or offense that brings police action to the scene. They present an isolated period of a police interaction but never the entire scenario.”
The Garner family was joined Saturday by the fiance of Sean Bell, an unarmed man killed by NYPD officers in a 50-bullet barrage in 2006 on what would have been his wedding day. Three officers were cleared of manslaughter charges, but the city was forced to pay more than $7 million to settle a wrongful death claim.
“Seeing this family is like looking in the mirror,” said Nicole Paultre Bell, who legally took his name after his death.
Sharpton told the audience he’s planning to rally support for a federal probe by inviting activists from across the country to join in a march across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
“We are not going to let this go,” Sharpton said. “Can you imagine? A chokehold on videotape? If we can’t get justice here, we can’t get justice anywhere.”
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