The NYPD’s head of training at the Police Academy testified on Tuesday that Officer Daniel Pantaleo was never trained to use a seatbelt hold, contradicting claims by the cop’s lawyer during his departmental trial for the death of Eric Garner.
After watching video evidence, Inspector Richard Dee, commanding officer of recruit training in the NYPD, said the position Pantaleo had when he wrapped his hand around Garner’s neck “meets the definition of a chokehold." Dee said Pantaleo was repeatedly instructed not to use the chokehold that led to Garner’s death as he was arrested on Staten Island on July 17, 2014.
Pantaleo’s lawyer Stuart London said on Monday that Pantaleo used a“seatbelt” maneuver that was approved by the NYPD to take down Garner. “He is merely trying to control [Garner], to cuff him,” London said on Monday. “There is no evidence he applied pressure to his neck at all.”
Dee said the seatbelt technique was not taught at the academy in 2006, when Pantaleo was a recruit, nor during the plainclothes training Pantaleo received in 2008. The technique wasn’t introduced in the NYPD until 2011.
Dee added that the prohibition of chokeholds is repeatedly highlighted in training documents in bold and capitalized text. The ban is referenced in writing and in class demonstrations.
Dee said that if he was in Pantaleo’s shoes he would have waited for backup, and that Pantaleo had several alternative courses of action before wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck.
Pantaleo and other officers confronted Garner after responding to a complaint about the sale of loose unlicensed cigarettes on Bay St. in Tompkinsville. Garner argued with the cops before Pantaleo put his arm around Garner’s head and took him down.
Garner repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” before losing consciousness. There have been allegations that medical care was delayed while cops handcuffed him and searched his pockets.
The city medical examiner ruled Garner died from the chokehold and chest compression, and said Garner’s weight, asthma and cardiovascular disease were contributing factors.
The other witness called on Tuesday was Michael Lewis, who claimed that Garner was breaking up a fight between two men before cops were called. He recorded Garner being put on a gurney and brought to an ambulance while Pantaleo was showing other officers how he had taken down the father of six.
“If you want to know whether a police officer was trained in a certain technique, you should talk to the person who actually trained him," Patrick Lynch, head of the NYPD’s largest union, the Police Benevolent Association, said in a statement.
“P.O. Pantaleo’s attorneys will do just that later in the trial. But CCRB knows full well that it is wasting everyone’s time by scrounging for evidence to suggest P.O. Pantaleo committed a rulebook infraction. They know that he did not commit any crime, and that he should be cleared of all charges against him,” Lynch said.
On Tuesday, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, sat in the courtroom gallery just a few feet from where Pantaleo was seated. She was comforted by a friend who rubbed her back during the testimony.
“I’m doing everything I can to keep from looking at the video,” she said. “Going to this trial every day has been very hard on me, to watch these tapes over and over again and then to watch the defense with their manipulations. I know they say that it’s their job, but it’s a dirty job when you know someone is guilty.”
“(Pantaleo’s lawyers) want to prove that it wasn’t a chokehold when an (NYPD) chief inspector said it was a chokehold,” she said. “Everyone who has gotten on that stand has said, ‘It’s a chokehold.’"
Carr said that sitting so close to Pantaleo on Tuesday was “very emotional.”