By John Montone, 1010 WINS
Sides have been chosen and that is as regrettable as it was predictable.
As the sun rose last Friday morning I approached a sidewalk memorial in Tompkinsville, Staten Island. A memorial for Eric Garner, who had died the night before shortly after a police officer had put him in a chokehold and other cops had brought him to the ground. Amidst the flowers and Yankees cap was a sign proclaiming that Garner was another victim of racism.
A man named Remarkable Overton was standing somberly near the memorial and I asked him if he wanted to talk, which he did. Remarkable Overton told me what others had already said about Garner, that he was a good man known to his pals as, “Big E.”
Overton claimed he was right there when police tried to arrest Garner. He related the incident much as I had seen it on a smart phone video. Garner had protested to police that he could not breathe. But as Overton told the story, Eric Garner had broken no law, although police officers were there to arrest him for allegedly selling, “loosies,” single untaxed cigarettes, a crime for which he had been arrested before. And Overton said, Garner, “… did not resist,” arrest.
The video seems to contradict that.
You see, Overton had already chosen sides.
State Senator Bill Perkins called Garner’s death, “Murder.” A protester outside Garner’s funeral called it, “Genocide.”
And Al Sharpton speaking at the service bellowed, “We can’t live in a city where they can choke us out and it’s not a big deal.” Sharpton said this while calling for a federal civil rights investigation. But why investigate if the truth is so clear? Racism, genocide, a law-abiding man brought down by a homicidal cop. Perkins, the protestor and Sharpton had already chosen sides.
So had Pat Lynch. The President of the PBA who saw the same video as the rest of us, yet defended officer Daniel Pantaleo saying, “It wasn’t a chokehold.” Seriously Pat? And other police officers took to online sites to vent calling Garner, “…a heart attack waiting to happen,” and “…a guy who couldn’t stop shoveling hamburgers down his throat.” They wrote that he and he alone was to blame for his own death. These cops apparently had it on good medical authority that had officer Pantaleo not put Garner in a chokehold he would have expired at that very moment anyway.
That’s the other side.
And to each side the truth is trifling.
Each side shouts and rants, hurls accusations and largely ignores the facts. Eric Garner was a relatively young man, a decent man to his friends, a married father of six. He was not an angel, though. Under the New York Penal Code he was a criminal. The NYPD does a heroic job keeping order in the greatest city on earth. But the department has had its share of rogue cops, cowboys and even some sadistic criminals.
The police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, the Staten Island D.A. and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District will all investigate the tragic takedown in Tompkinsville.
The Medical Examiner will tell us if the chokehold contributed to Eric Garner’s death and if it did Officer Pantaleo will pay the price. That is the law and it applies to both sides.