ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The relatives of eight people killed by police said Tuesday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has agreed to order a special prosecutor to investigate such deaths — if his legislative proposal fails to establish a special monitor to review similar cases.
After meeting with the governor for about 90 minutes in Albany Tuesday, the group consisting mostly of mothers says they still want the prosecutor, not the monitor, and the governor agreed to see them again in a month.
“We still feel his proposal for an independent monitor doesn’t go far enough,” organizer Yul-san Liem said. “There’s a number of proposals that he’s putting forward. — He said if he cannot get these things done, he will enact an executive order to create a special prosecutor after the legislative session ends.”
The session is scheduled to end June 17.
The family members also said they don’t condone but do understand the frustration that led to rioting Monday in Baltimore, where a man suffered a fatal spine injury while under arrest.
The violent riots erupted in Baltimore following the funeral for the man — Freddie Gray, 25.
Gwen Carr, whose son Eric Garner died last year in an apparent police chokehold caught on video on Staten Island, said it’s a matter of life and death in minority communities. A grand jury declined to charge any officers in Garner’s death, leading to protests by outraged residents.
Carr said Garner, who was black and was being arrested on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes, didn’t have any weapon on him.
“He was laying on the ground dying. They wouldn’t even let the EMS attend to him,” Carr said. “The grand jury didn’t indict. Where is the justice? My son said he couldn’t breathe. Eleven times. Eleven times my son said he couldn’t breathe.”
She added: “Nobody has that right to take away our right to breathe. Our children are not animals. They did nothing to deserve this.”
Medical examiners had found that a police chokehold, banned by police policy, caused Garner’s death. Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s lawyer argued the officer used a permissible takedown maneuver. Grand jurors decided no criminal charges were warranted in a case presented by Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, who’s now running for Congress.
The families said they came to Albany tired of waiting for a meeting with Cuomo that had been previously scheduled and canceled.
Constance Malcolm, whose 18-year-old son Ramarley Graham was shot to death by a policeman in 2012 in a bathroom in the Bronx home he shared with his grandmother and others, said authorities had no warrant, her son was killed in front of his 6-year-old brother and their grandmother was interrogated at the police station for seven hours afterward.
The officer said he fired because he thought Graham would shoot him, but no weapons were found in the apartment. Police said marijuana was found in the toilet.
Officer Richard Haste’s manslaughter indictment was dismissed by a judge who said prosecutors had improperly instructed grand jurors. A second grand jury decided not to re-indict the officer.
Malcolm questioned how in such cases people can count on prosecutors, judges and police officers who work together.
“We need a special prosecutor because the locals, we can’t rely on them,” Graham said. “It seems like every time they get a case, we end up with the same result.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, proposed legislation to establish a special monitor who would review grand jury investigations of police who kill unarmed civilians, but it was left out of the budget he negotiated with legislative leaders this year.
The families want Cuomo to issue an executive order to establish a special prosecutor who would be more objective. They said legislation would take too long and a special monitor would just add a step to the existing process.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)