Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo and Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner (264849)
Credit: Photo courtesy of Communities United for Police Reform

Tuesday marked four years since NYPD officers killed Eric Garner on Staten Island. His mother says the ordeal still haunts her.

“I have sleepless nights and I still have nightmares,” Gwen Carr said during a news conference.

The anniversary of Garner’s death comes as the NYPD announces it plans to open its own investigation into the 2014 police killing. Because the Department of Justice hasn’t made any moves for criminal charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who killed Garner, NYPD lawyer Lawrence Byrne said in letter that the police department will conduct disciplinary proceedings by Aug. 31. However, on Thursday, the department announced that it plans to begin disciplinary proceedings immediately.

“It has become clear that a definite date by which time a final decision by the [Justice Department] will be rendered in this matter cannot be predicted,” Byrne said.

Statement from Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner

“The de Blasio administration should never have waited for 4 years or until September because the idea that NYPD couldn’t have acted before DOJ has always been a lie. We exposed that September was an artificial timeline this week and it’s unacceptable that the NYPD is saying that only two officers will face discipline charges when many more were involved in murdering my son, trying to cover it up and other related misconduct. There were over 5 officers on video using force or failing to intervene as my son Eric pleaded “I can’t breathe” 11 times, some officers tried to cover up the killing by lying on the official police reports to leave out the kind of force used against him and others illegally leaked alleged information. It’s past time for de Blasio and the NYPD to stop playing games with my son’s death and release the names of all the officers responsible for his murder, tried to cover it up, and engaged in other related misconduct, and bring disciplinary charges to fire all of them.”

The DOJ said in a statement that it informed Byrne in the spring that the NYPD could move forward with disciplinary proceedings.

“Mr. Byrne’s letter does not have any bearing on the decision-making timeline at the Justice Department, and the department cannot comment further at this time,” the department said.

Garner was killed by Pantaleo during an arrest for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Pantaleo put him in what appeared to be a prohibited chokehold. The incident was caught on cellphone video, on which Garner can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe” 11 times

Monday, Carr and the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network said they plan to be at the disciplinary hearings for Pantaleo.

“We just want to see justice for my son and we want to see this done,” said Carr. “We don’t want politics to play into this. We want justice. I am going to continue to fight, and I want everybody to know that I’m in this fight for the long run.”

Sharpton added that he met with Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday and explained to him that the family has been waiting for years for some form of justice. Sharpton wants to see all of the officers involved in Garner’s killing fired.

“All the family is asking for is a fair trial,” Sharpton said. “It is a move in the right direction, but it must move forward. We intend to make sure justice is served.”
At a rally Tuesday at City Hall, Carr placed blame on de Blasio for the delay in any justice for Garner. She said the mayor’s administration has shown no commitment in providing accountability.

“The fact is that four years after my son was murdered on video that the whole world saw, the de Blasio administration has failed to hold any of those multiple officers accountable and they have collectively gone on to make hundreds of thousands, if not over a million, dollars in taxpayer-funded salaries,” Carr said.

Speaking to the AmNews, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for NAN Michael Hardy said that Garner’s family remains hopeful, despite being let down by various levels of the government.

“Eric Garner’s family has always felt frustrated by this whole thing,” he said. “The federal government has taken no action. That is enormously frustrating to the family and the justice community.”

Hardy also said that this weekend, NAN and the Garner family have several things planned to commemorate Garner’s life in Brooklyn at the House of the Lord Church and New Hope Baptist Church in New Jersey. The family will also gather at Garner’s gravesite.

“People should know the Garner family is dedicated to pursuing justice,” Hardy said. “Eric Garner was basically killed on tape saying ‘I can’t breathe’ 11 times. The chokehold that was used is against the NYPD policy, and we believe that Eric Garner’s civil rights were violated in a criminal nature.”

Civil rights organization Communities United for Police Reform said in a statement released Monday that the move is a distraction from the fact that no one has been held accountable in Garner’s death for the past four years.

“Multiple officers used excessive force while Pantaleo used a chokehold banned by the NYPD for over 20 years, others did nothing to intervene as Garner said he couldn’t breathe 11 times,” said Communities United for Police Reform representative Carolyn Martinez-Class. “No one has been held accountable for any of this misconduct and the letter leaked by the NYPD equates to more rhetoric and not action toward accountability.”

In response to the announcement of the NYPD investigation, Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said in a statement that the DOJ should move forward with the case against Pantaleo, but the NYPD should not rush to a decision during the discipline process.

“Police officer Pantaleo is entitled to due process and an impartial consideration of the facts,” Lynch said. “If that is allowed to occur, we are confident that he will be vindicated and will finally be able to move forward.”