Another police killing of an unarmed man of color. Another grand jury deciding not to indict: Not for murder. Not for manslaughter. Not for assault. Not even for reckless endangerment. We live in a land of impunity. At least, for those in power.
This past summer, after covering the protests in Ferguson, Mo., I flew back to New York City and went straight to Staten Island to cover the march protesting the police killing of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African-American father of six. This story was strikingly similar to the police killing in Ferguson, where Officer Darren Wilson gunned down unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. Both cases involved white police officers using deadly force. Both of the victims were unarmed African-Americans. In both cases, local prosecutors, with close ties to their local police departments, were allowed to control the grand jury. There were some differences between the cases. Most notably, Eric Garner’s killing was captured on video.
If you look at the video closely, just as NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo puts him in an illegal chokehold, you see Eric Garner put his hands up, the international signal of surrender. He is then taken down by a gang of police officers. You hear him repeatedly say, “I can’t breathe!” He says it a total of 11 times before he goes limp and dies.