NYPD internal memo on death of Eric Garner neglects to mention officer's chokehold

Garner died after being put in an illegal chokehold, a salient fact officers on the scene seemingly forgot

Published July 22, 2014 4:08PM (EDT)

             (carl ballou/Shutterstock.com)
(carl ballou/Shutterstock.com)

In a development that is sure to spark even more outrage, the New York Daily News reports that the New York Police Department's initial internal investigation into the Thursday death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner fails to mention his being put in a chokehold and claims Garner — who is seen on a widely-shared video saying he cannot breathe — did not appear to be in "great distress."

The memo was prepared in the immediate aftermath of Garner's death but before video of the incident went viral. Rather than note that Garner, despite his protestations, was put in a chokehold and slammed against the sidewalk, Sgt. Dhanan Saminath is quoted describing the police as merely "maintaining control of [Garner]" throughout the arrest. NYPD personnel are prohibited from using a chokehold.

Sgt. Kizzy Adonis also told investigators that "the perpetrator’s condition did not seem serious and that he did not appear to get worse." At the same time, however, Adonis is also reported as saying she "believed she heard the perpetrator state that he was having difficulty breathing."

While the officers involved say they were arresting Garner — who had been arrested 31 times since 1988 — after seeing him illegally sell cigarettes, witnesses claim that Garner had just broken up a fight and was upset over being arrested for what he felt were arbitrary reasons. The NYPD has placed the officer responsible for choking Garner on desk duty pending further investigation, and Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that, from what he's seen, it looks like Garner was indeed choked.

The tragic incident reminded many of the climactic moment in Spike Lee's landmark film on race relations, "Do The Right Thing." Evidently, Lee himself also saw parallels, and decided to create a clip combining "Do The Right Thing" with the video of Garner's arrest.

Yet while the public's reaction to Garner's death has been mostly defined by outrage and sorrow, there is at least one community that, in this situation, feels it is the NYPD getting the short end of the stick: Currently employed police officers anonymously commenting at a law-enforcement-themed messageboard.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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