Nearly five years after Eric Garner’s death, the Staten Island cop who choked him as he gasped, “I can’t breathe” faces an NYPD administrative trial beginning Monday.
But Garner’s friends say that little has changed on Bay Street since the deadly confrontation — and they doubt Officer Daniel Pantaleo will face any serious consequences.
“Hell, no,” said Doug Brenson when asked if he thought the upcoming Civilian Complaint Review Board trial would produce the measure of justice sought by Garner’s family.
Brenson first met Garner in 2008 outside a check-cashing business he owned at 202 Bay Street in Tompkinsville. Garner would sell loose cigarettes in front of Brenson’s storefront, and the two quickly became friends.
On July 17, 2014, Brenson said he saw his pal go into another check-cashing store on Victory Boulevard, which he called Garner’s “safe spot” from the police. He was shocked when he learned of Garner’s death later that day.
“All they’re going to say is it’s unfounded,” said Brenson of the CCRB administrative trial, which will take place at One Police Plaza in Manhattan.
“They ain’t going to find sh-t — when they know that that man had every option. He [Pantaleo] didn’t have to jump out of his car, he [Garner] was just sitting on the steps.”
Pantaleo is facing counts of assault and strangulation in the departmental case, which will be prosecuted by the Civilian Complaint Review Board. If found guilty, he could be fired from the NYPD, where he’s been on desk duty since Garner’s death.
In December 2014, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo, setting off waves of protests throughout New York City and around the country.
In 2015, the city settled a wrongful death suit with Garner’s family for $5.9 million.
‘He was my Brother’
Albert Williams, a 39-year-old Tompkinsville resident, said he was with Garner near 202 Bay St. when two plainclothes officers got out of an unmarked car to arrest his close friend.
“He was my brother,” said Williams.
Williams — who was initially hesitant to give his full name over fears of retaliation — said the cops in the area often assume that he’s selling drugs. Spending time at Bay Street and Victory Boulevard sometimes makes him anxious.
“It’s the harassment. They think everyone is doing something down here. Like me, I don’t sell no drugs. I just come here to hang out,” said Williams. “If you’re black, you’ll be a victim. If you’re dressed different, you’ll be a victim. It’s scary. I don’t want to end up like him, dead.”
Raphael Garcia, a 55-year-old local, said police are frequently in the area because of drug use in nearby Tompkinsville Park.
“I see it so many times, people are always drinking and so the cops are always there,” Garcia said outside of a Bay Street soul food joint. “I don’t know what’s going on with the police, but for me it’s still discrimination what happened.”
Brenson, meanwhile, said he’s encouraged by two black-owned businesses that opened on the block within the last year.
“That’s never happened before,” Brenson said. “Makes me feel like something’s changing.”
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