June 6, 2019
PBA President: The facts are clear, exonerate Pantaleo
On the seventh and final day of testimony in P.O. Daniel Pantaleo’s NYPD disciplinary trial, defense attorneys summarized the overwhelming evidence that not only exonerates Pantaleo but dispels nearly five years of politically motivated misinformation about the case.
PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said:
“From the moment this incident occurred, the facts have been twisted to smear the reputation of not only P.O. Daniel Pantaleo, but every New York City police officer. Anti-police activists have exploited this tragedy and stoked the fires of outrage to further their own political agenda. In the process, they have done serious damage to the partnership between police officers and the communities we protect. In this trial, the facts have been allowed to speak for themselves. If the decision is made on those facts alone — without the pressure of politics and the noise from the street — Pantaleo should be cleared of all charges.”
The facts put forward over the course of the trial correct the distorted narrative of the case in five key areas:
- The decision to enforce the sale of untaxed cigarettes on Bay Street was not made by police officers on the street, but instead came from the highest levels of the NYPD: Christopher Bannon testified regarding a meeting he attended with the Chief of Department, in which NYPD brass called for additional enforcement of quality of life offenses, specifically identifying the location where Garner was later arrested. On the day of the incident, Lt. Bannon observed what he believed to be the sale of untaxed cigarettes at the location, and directed P.O. Justin Damico and Pantaleo to go there to address the issue.
- Police officers did everything in their power to gain Garner’s compliance without force: P.O. Justin Damico, the arresting officer, testified he had let Garner off with a warning 2 weeks prior for the sale of untaxed cigarettes. He testified that he attempted to deescalate the situation, but Garner continued to grow more agitated and ultimately resisted arrest.
- P.O. Pantaleo used only NYPD-approved tactics while attempting to arrest Garner: Retired Sgt. Russell Jung, the former Police Academy instructor who conducted Pantaleo’s tactical training, testified that Pantaleo used a “seatbelt takedown” maneuver during the arrest of Eric Garner that was approved for use by NYPD members at the time of the incident. Jung also testified that the prone positioning of Garner during handcuffing and the use of hands to hold Garner’s head to the ground are also approved NYPD tactics taught in the Academy.
- Eric Garner did not say “I can’t breathe” because he was being choked: Ramsey Orta, who recorded the video of Garner’s arrest, testified that the video clearly shows that P.O. Pantaleo’s arm was not in contact with Eric Garner’s neck when he started to complain about trouble breathing. Michael Graham, chief medical examiner for the city of St. Louis, MO, testified that Garner’s ability to speak and remain conscious showed that he was not being choked. The NYC Medical Examiner, Dr. Floriana Persechino, confirmed that Garner’s death was not caused by asphyxiation from a chokehold.
- Eric Garner’s death was the result of his underlying medical conditions and his decision to resist arrest: Persechino testified that Eric Garner “was not a healthy individual” and that a variety of factors led to his death. Dr. Graham, who reviewed the complete autopsy documentation, testified that Garner did not die from any of the causes of death listed on the autopsy report, but instead died of heart disease aggravated by the physical exertion of resisting arrest.