The doctor who performed the autopsy on Eric Garner said Wednesday that a police officer had strangled him with enough force to trigger a "deadly stunt" of events, culminating in a deadly asthma attack.
The doctor, Floriana Persechino, said that Garner's headscarf and chest compression during his arrest on Staten Island in 2014 "triggered a deadly sequence."
Although Mr. Garner was suffering from hypertension and chronic asthma, Dr. Persechino, a medical examiner in the city, concluded that his death was a homicide attributable to the use of force by the police officer. "Strangulation is an important initial factor in the cascade," she said.
Dr. Persechino testified at the disciplinary hearing of Constable Daniel Pantaleo, who could be dismissed under the charge of indiscriminately using a strangling and voluntarily restricting him. breathing.
Mr. Garner died during a brawl with several police officers in July 2014 near the Staten Island ferry terminal. The police arrested him because they thought he was selling untaxed cigarettes.
His death sparked demonstrations and contributed to a national judgment on how the police treat people from poor and minority neighborhoods, with his last words – "I can not breathe" – becoming a rallying cry for a national movement against police brutality.
A grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict Constable Pantaleo in 2014 for criminal charges. A federal civil rights investigation has been going on for years without any charge being withheld. The limitation period expires on July 17, the fifth anniversary of Mr. Garner's death.
Last fall, Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill decided to hold the disciplinary hearing, giving the first public release of evidence against Constable Pantaleo.
Dr. Persechino said Wednesday that visible internal bleeding in four soft tissue layers of the neck indicated the use of a constriction that triggered the asthma attack.
During the cross-examination of Mr. Persechino, the attorneys and prosecutors of Officer Pantaleo of the Civil Complaints Commission exchanged animated words, one of the officer's attorneys, Stuart London, hinting that Mr. Garner was in poor health and caused his death by resisting the arrest.
Dr. Persechino is the third official to testify this week that Constable Pantaleo used a suffocation on Mr. Garner. On Monday, two internal affairs investigators said they had recommended in 2015 that Constable Pantaleo face disciplinary charges for using the prohibited technique.
And Tuesday morning, Deputy Inspector Richard Dee, commander of the police academy, said what officer Pantaleo could see in the video of an arrest vis-à-vis the passer – wrap an arm around Mr. Garner's neck and squeeze it – "meets the definition of a strangling. "
Mr. London, the defense attorney, argued that the agent Pantaleo was trying to use a safe pullout technique taught at the Police Academy, known as the "seat belt".
But Inspector Dee testified that the seat belt maneuver was not taught or approved by the ministry in 2006, when Officer Pantaleo had been admitted to the academy, nor in 2008, when he had undergone training to become an undercover officer.
The autopsy photos shown in a courtroom Wednesday at the police headquarters sadly illustrated the damage to Mr. Garner's huge carcass from Officer Pantaleo's left forearm during the fight.
With the aid of a laser pointer, Dr. Persechino methodically explained the visible physical trauma on the muscle layer and soft tissues inside Mr. Garner's neck, highlighting a band of hemorrhages "which went from dark red to purple.
Gwen Carr, Mr. Garner's mother, left the courtroom before the photos were shown. "I could not sit and watch pictures of my child," Carr said. "It's not easier. It's very moving to be here.
In cross-examination, Mr. London attempted to challenge Mr. Persechino's findings. He often asked him about Dr. Garner's other ailments: he was obese, weighed 395 pounds, had chronic asthma, and had a dilated heart almost twice as large as a healthy person.
"Any stress in which he would be engaged would probably be more deadly for him than a normal person," Mr. London suggested to the doctor.
Mr London also quoted a report from the chief surgeon of the police department who allegedly accused Mr Garner of his own death, because he had refused to comply with the orders of the agent Pantaleo and his partner.
"He has obviously resisted arrest, your honor," London said at some point during cross-examination.
Suzanne O'Hare, a prosecutor of the supervisory agency, immediately opposed. "Does the council testify now?" She asked.
Mr. London raised another objection from Ms. O'Hare about Mr. Garner: "If he had just accepted a subpoena for untaxed cigarettes, none of this would have happened".
Detective Dee said on Tuesday that the techniques used by Constable Pantaleo against Eric Garner in their fatal battle were against the decades-old ban on the stranglers.
Both in the academy and during the specialized training, it is repeated several times that officers are forbidden to keep asphyxiating or restrict the breathing of someone, he said. declared.
Inspector Dee, a former Narcotics and Gang Supervisor, also testified that the police's decision to put Mr. Garner into action instead of continuing to talk to him was questionable.
"Have you got hold of Mr. Garner?", Is interviewed Jonathan Fogel, one of the attorneys.
"I would have waited for a backup, for uniforms officers to arrive, and I would make another call, "replied Detective Dee.
The disciplinary hearing is closely monitored by many elected officials, who see it as a test of Mr. O'Neill's determination to improve the often tense relationship between the police and the poorest residents of the community. city.
"The public is watching," Councilor Donovan Richards, a Democrat of the Queen, told O'Neill at a hearing held on Wednesday by City Council. Mr. Richards added that people "will clearly see in this case how much you want the agents who break the law to be held responsible".
S addressing reporters after the hearing, Mr. O'Neill would not commit to enforcing the verdict. Judge Rosemarie Maldonado, who oversees the hearing, does not achieve the sentence that she recommends.
"I will not prejudge it," he said.
Ashley Southall contributed to the reports.