Five years after the killing of Eric Garner, his mother is putting the heat on officials to get a move on in getting some justice for his death.
Gwen Carr penned an op-ed for NBC News’ Think explaining where the quest for fairness stands today. She says things have not progressed to where they should be.
“I don’t want the death of Eric Garner, my son, to be just another news story to people,” she begins. “I know that many times, we hear something on the news and we sympathize with the family. But we need to empathize with the victims, to advocate for justice because otherwise, it’ll just keep happening.”
Garner died in July 2014 after New York Police Department officers placed him in a chokehold after dragging him to the ground.
“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” Garner, a 350-pound man who stood over 6 feet tall and reportedly suffered from asthma, repeatedly said in the video.
In the years since, justice has not prevailed.
“After my son’s horrific death five years ago, I thought, since we had a video and everything was wide open for the world to see, that there would be no question about getting justice,” Carr said in her op-ed. “I thought after Eric’s death was ruled a homicide that the police officer involved, Daniel Pantaleo, would be indicted and he would be held accountable for his wrongdoing. But that didn’t happen.
“The grand jury refused to indict him; police investigators determined that he used a chokehold but took no action against him other than leaving him on desk duty,” she continued. “The Department of Justice announced in 2014 that it was investigating but hasn’t done anything even as the statute of limitations will expire next month; the city blamed the ongoing federal investigation for their failure to hold a Civilian Complaint Review Board hearing until this year.”
The hearing was concluded last week after it began in May. The trial was disciplinary in nature, not criminal, Vox reported. As such, the worst punishment he could face is losing his job.
Following the conclusion of the trial, Judge Joan Madden has 90 days to submit her recommendations to police Commissioner James O’Neill. He will make the ultimate decision in what occurs with the NYPD officer.
However, the federal statute of limitations is running out on the case. The Department of Justice is required to reveal if any criminal civil rights charges will be pursued against Pantaleo by July. With time ticking, Carr is concerned.
“They have not moved one bit on our case,” she said. “Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Geddes went to the review board hearing but walked out when the judge ruled that Pantaleo did not have to testify and would not be cross-examined.”
Still, Carr said she’ll maintain a certain amount of hope.
“I’m still going be hopeful that there will be some justice for my son and our family — but only in the sense that I’m not going to let it go,” she said. “The police have to represent New York City; they are supposed to serve and protect everyone. But they’re all not doing that.”
Carr also took issue with the lack of discipline Pantaleo faced for killing her son, noting he was simply reduced to desk duty, where his pay had increased to six figures by 2016.
“We are not going to let Eric’s death be swept under the rug; they can’t be allowed to just run out the clock,” she said before acknowledging she can’t bring back her son, but she can ensure other families don’t have to endure the same fate.
“I’m not only doing this for us, though: My son is gone, but there are other lives out there to save by making sure that officers like Pantaleo are held accountable for their actions,” Carr said. “So I’m going to continue on this journey, and nothing’s going to stop me.”