A judicial inquiry into the police killing of Eric Garner, a Black man who was arrested during a dispute over selling loose cigarettes, began on Monday (Oct. 25).
According to ABC News, Judge Erika Edwards ordered 13 witnesses, including NYPD sergeants and officers, to testify to offer more clarity and insight into Garner’s 2014 death. The proceedings will center on the use of force against Garner, his arrest, the filing of records regarding his arrest, the alleged leaking of his arrest history and medical condition from the autopsy report, and the lack of medical care for the 43-year-old.
“It’s trailblazing if you ask me,” Edwards said during the proceedings. “Nobody will be charged or found liable. It’s about transparency. It’s about creating a record. It’s about letting the public better understand what happened and what did not happen seven years ago.”
Back in 2014, Garner was accused of selling untaxed cigarettes outside of a local store. He denied the accusation, however, NYPD police officers Daniel Pantaleo and Justin D’Amicoto tried to detain him. While trying to take Garner into custody, Pantaleo used a chokehold that had been banned by the department since the 1990s.
During the violent altercation, Garner told the officers “I can’t breathe” more than 10 times before he became unconscious. He was left lying on the sidewalk as the cops waited for an ambulance to arrive. Garner was later declared dead at the hospital.
The New York City medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide due to the chokehold triggering a fatal asthma attack. The U.S. Department of Justice and a Staten Island grand jury both declined to bring criminal charges against Pantaleo, however, he was later terminated by the NYPD following a department disciplinary trial.
“This hearing will lead to further accountability for his death and advance the cause of racial justice in our criminal justice system, both in our city and across the nation,” Garner family attorney Alvin Bragg said in the hearing.