Andrew C. McCarthy writes: Several news organizations have reported that a New York grand jury in Staten Island has voted against indicting Daniel Pantaleo, a New York City police officer, in the choking death of Eric Garner. The decision is to be announced officially on Thursday. Clearly, this No True Bill is more difficult to justify than the St. Louis grand jury’s vote against filing homicide charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Officer Pantaleo, who is white, is being investigated for killing Mr. Garner, a 43-year-old black man who was physically imposing but unarmed, and who was resisting arrest (for a nonviolent crime, the illegal sale of untaxed cigarettes) but not overtly threatening the safety of the police. As National Review Online reported on Wednesday, the confrontation between Garner and the police was captured on videotape.
NYPD guidelines ban a form of chokehold. Contrary to some reporting, however, even that technique is not illegal per se. In fact, it used to be part of police training before concerns about accidental death convinced the NYPD to prohibit its use. Much of the coverage I have heard assumes that the chokehold Pantaleo applied is one that the guidelines ban (and, so the narrative goes, is illegal). This is hotly disputed by some police advocates, who claim that what Pantaleo did was more in the nature of a headlock or a wrestler’s swift takedown. Obviously, we do not yet know what, if any, testimony the grand jury heard on this point.
In any event, others counter that Garner could be heard repeatedly telling the police he could not breathe. While this actually undercuts the claim that a banned chokehold was used (since, if it had been, Garner would have had great difficulty speaking so audibly), Garner’s pleas suggest that the police used excessive force — a problem that makes the chokehold debate nearly irrelevant. In the absence of any apparent threat to the police, critics forcefully ask, shouldn’t Pantaleo have stopped whatever hold was being applied?
There is no doubt that Pantaleo aggressively handled Garner around the neck and then pressed his head to the ground. Soon after, Garner died. On top of that, the state medical examiner (ME) concluded that a homicide occurred. Sounds cut and dried, especially given that grand juries need merely find probable cause in order to return an indictment. Read the rest of this entry »
The money shot.