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article imageOp-Ed: Garner case nothing like Ferguson, clear cold-blooded murder

By Ralph Lopez     Dec 8, 2014 in World
The irony in the case of Eric Garner, dead as a result of police actions on July 17, 2014 in Staten Island, is that it has none of the obscure circumstances of the Michael Brown death in Ferguson, Missouri.
Were it not for the airwaves crowded by 24/7 coverage, for months before, of Michael Brown, the public's attention would have been able to focus on the much clearer circumstances surrounding the death of Eric Garner.
Garner's death bears none of the ambiguity of the facts pertaining to Michael Brown, and seems, to a far higher degree of certainty, to be a simple, unarguable case of police misconduct extending to cold-blooded murder.
The "crime" in progress of which Eric Garner is accused, and which the police say initiated the chain of events, is selling cigarettes individually out of a pack, a crime akin to selling your parking space. Numerous police officers can then be seen moving in for an arrest, with officer Daniel Pantaleo, tattooed from the elbow down, jumping on Garner and placing him in the choke hold. Panteleo's tattoo may have been the last thing Eric Garner saw in his life.
In a Kafkaesque twist that is testament to just how obtuse and out-of-touch a certain element of police have become, witness accounts say Garner drew the police's attention only after he had just broken up a fight.
The New York City Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.
The choke hold is one of the deadliest holds in street fighting, and is considered among some fight-masters to be irresponsible to teach. Unconsciousness takes place within seconds, with death quickly following in some instances as oxygen and bloodflow is cut off from the brain. The following video illustrates just how quickly an opponent is forced to "tap out," that is, yield, before losing consciousness and falling limp. The size of the man does not matter. The choke hold is deadly just as fast to large and small alike.
Former UFC fight champ Pat Miletich told ESPN, in a article about a man who said he suffered a stroke some time after a severe choke hold in a martial arts class:
"It's like a pinched straw," If you pinch it and keep sucking, the straw stays closed. When the blood pressure is trying to pull the blood through the artery and it's been crushed or squeezed by a choke, sometimes that artery will stay closed and that's when damage occurs."
The effects and the familiarity of the Black community with the carotid artery choke hold were dramatized in Spike Lee's 1989 movie "Do the Right Thing," excerpt below.
Garner's lifeless body can be seen in handcuffs on the sidewalk, as a policeman stands over him and weakly pats his arm in a vain attempt to 'wake him up,' without any particular sense of urgency.
The hold was banned by NYPD Commander John F. Timoney in 1993, who declared: "We are in the business of protecting life, not taking it."
In 1998 NYPD Officer Officer Francis Livoti was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for the violation of the civil rights of Anthony Ramon Baez, after Livoti placed Baez in a choke hold. A football thrown between Baez and his brothers had hit police cars parked on their street.
Defenders of the police in the Garner case say that the 43-year-old father actually died of a heart attack in the ambulance. But the New York City Medical Examiner's ruling of the death as a homicide means the link between the choke hold and the medical distress of the patient immediately afterwards is fully understood by medical professionals.
The circumstances around Michael Brown's death are disturbing, but decidedly ambiguous. Those around Eric Garner's death are not. Unconstrained by "double jeopardy" rules, it is eminently within the purview of federal authorities to step in and mount a prosecution which could result in jail time, as in the 1998 decision on Officer Francis Livoti.
You never place a man in a choke hold unless your life is in danger and you are ready to kill him. Few men are ready to do this in an ordinary street tussle, but Officer Francis Livoti was. Federal prosecutors can do much to stop the tragically growing mistrust and outright hostility between the public and its most visible public servants, by weeding out the bad for whom's actions the good officers must pay.
There should be no mistake: The Garner case is not a race-based issue of different perceptions from different communities. If police can murder a non-threat like Eric Garner in full view of the public, in broad daylight, they can do it to anybody.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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