New York City public advocate Jumaane Williams gave an impassioned response Monday as he debated former FBI special agent James Gagliano over the firing of former NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Pantaleo, who caused the death of Eric Garner, 43, by placing him in a department-banned chokehold, was relieved of duty after a trial judge recommend his firing earlier this month. The officer’s termination was cheered by Garner’s relatives, who’ve waited five years for justice to be served.
Gagliano felt quite the opposite, however, and called Pantaleo’s dismissal a “glaring miscarriage of justice.”
“I look at it from the perspective of the law,” he explained on a recent CNN panel. “It’s easy to watch the video and feel passion for the [Garner] family. We’ve had his wife on here, we have had his mother on here, we’ve had his children on here.”
But “he refused to comply, his health played a role,” Gagaliano added, arguing that it was “unfair” to Pantaleo to base his firing on footage of Garner’s final moments.
Video of the State Island man’s violent arrest showed him repeatedly telling officers he was having trouble breathing. Garner suffered a heart attack in the struggle with police and later died.
“We have got to stop pretending black folks aren’t human beings,” Williams shot back at Gagliano. “So when this happens, ‘they shouldn’t have moved, they shouldn’t have this,’ I’ve seen situations where other human beings do the same thing and they don’t end up dead.”
The public advocate argued that even if the claims against Garner, who was accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, were true, his alleged crime shouldn’t have been a death sentence.
“This is the only profession … where people die and we say there shouldn’t be accountability,” he added.
Moreover, Williams pointed out that Pantaleo continued to choke Garner, even though he didn’t pose a danger to anyone involved. He argued that the then-officer should’ve waited for a supervisor instead.
“I never waited for a supervisor!” Gagliano argued.
Notably, the FBI investigates its own agents when they fire their weapons in the course of duty, with the result that they are nearly always found to be justified in shooting subjects, even when they are hostage victims who are tied up.
Grabbing his fellow panelist by the shoulder, the former G-man acknowledged he knows as much about being a Black man as America as Williams knows about being a cop on patrol in a crime-ridden neighborhood.
“You never know when somebody refuses to comply, are they looking to take my life?” he argued.
Williams replied: “I also know that people in high crime areas want that crime down. There was an error made and someone died and an illegal technique was used. And there has to be accountability for that.”
Watch more in the video below.