Eighteen months after Eric Garner’s death at the hands of New York City police, one officer is finally facing charges. But the charges are not criminal, and the officer was not directly involved in Garner’s death by chokehold. Instead, Sergeant Kizzy Adonis, who is African-American, faces internal charges of “failing to supervise.” The internal charges against Adonis come just over a year after a grand jury elected not to indict white officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing Garner in a chokehold. Pantaleo remains under Justice Department investigation. The Garner family reached a $5.9 million settlement with New York City in July. We are joined by Eric Garner’s daughter, Erica Garner, who says authorities should be charging the officers who killed her father.
AMY GOODMAN: In the 18 months since Eric Garner’s death at the hands of New York City police, his family has led a tireless campaign for charges against the officers involved. Now one officer is facing charges—they’re departmental charges—but she’s not one of the officers who directly was involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Instead, Sergeant Kizzy Adonis, who is African-American, faces internal departmental charges of, quote, “failing to supervise.” Adonis was one of two supervising officers who responded to the scene and watched it unfold. She has been stripped of her badge and gun. The internal charges against Adonis come just over a year after a grand jury decided not to indict the white police officer Daniel Pantaleo for taking Garner’s life. After Officer Pantaleo pulled Garner to the ground in the chokehold, officers then piled on top as Garner said “I can’t breathe” 11 times. The officers had confronted Garner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. His family reached a $5.9 million settlement with New York City in July. Officer Pantaleo remains under Justice Department investigation.
While some have welcomed the charges against Sergeant Adonis as a step forward in the case, Eric Garner’s daughter, Erica, has spoken out in Adonis’s defense. Erica Garner says Sergeant Adonis was the only officer at the scene who tried to save her father’s life. And while Adonis is the first officer to face reprimand, the only person who has actually been criminally charged who was at the scene that day is not an officer. Ramsey Orta, the young man who actually filmed the fatal chokehold on his cellphone and released the footage, has been arrested multiple times by police since Garner’s death. Ramsey Orta says police have deliberately targeted him for capturing Garner’s death on video and exposing it to the world. Supporters, including Erica Garner, joined Ramsey Orta on Monday at yet another of his court appearances on Staten Island. Erica Garner refers to Ramsey Orta as “the only man charged in my dad’s death.”
Well, to discuss these latest developments, Erica Garner and Ramsey Orta join us now. And we’re joined in San Francisco by Reggie Harris, a member of the Black Organizing Project and adviser to Erica Garner.
Let’s begin with you, Erica. So, talk about this latest news. I mean, a grand jury did not indict any officers, but the New York Police Department has brought the sergeant, the supervising officer, Adonis, up on departmental charges. Your thoughts?
ERICA GARNER: My initial thought was it was no surprise. In the beginning, when the reports was being leaked to the media, we already knew that they was highlighting Kizzy Adonis’ actions, the fact that she lied on the report. Now, a year and a half later—
AMY GOODMAN: What was that lie?
ERICA GARNER: Oh, that my dad wasn’t in distress. She heard him say that “I can’t breathe,” but he wasn’t—she believed that he wasn’t in distress, which was clearly a lie. So, a year and a half later, for them to charge her for failure to supervise, I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s a political move. Those officers, as you can clearly see on the video, if she did say, “Let up. You got him already,” she is a supervising officer, and they disobeyed a direct order. And that further supports my argument in my article or my YouTube video, when I say that if you can find charges or enough charges to charge this black lady on failure to supervise, it was a lot of cops on the scene that day, and how come the other sergeant wasn’t charged yet? How come the borough commander? How come Bill de Blasio, the city’s mayor? How come Mayor de Blasio and William Bratton, the commissioner? It’s a lot of people that should be charged with failure to supervise, because they failed us on that day.
AMY GOODMAN: What has happened to Officer Pantaleo, the man who put your dad in a chokehold?
ERICA GARNER: He still has his job. He’s still getting paid. He’s still walking the streets of Staten Island. He’s still being this monster to the black community in Staten Island. Even though he’s put on modified duty, he’s still running amok in Staten Island. So, nothing.
AMY GOODMAN: We did call the New York Police Department. They said they wouldn’t come on, but said, “Probationary Sergeant Kizzy Adonis of the 120th Precinct was served with disciplinary charges today in connection with the NYPD internal review of the July 17, 2014 incident on Staten Island involving Eric Garner. … Sergeant Adonis has also been placed on modified assignment status.”
ERICA GARNER: I’m aware of that; it had been playing for about a week and a half. And that’s not enough, you know? I don’t think she should be charged. Like, if she’s charged, that means you’re admitting that something—that a murder went down in my dad’s case. You’re expressing—New York is expressing—the New York Police Department is not taking full liability, but they are saying that something wrong went down.
AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, they said, at the request of the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the internal disciplinary review of the Garner incident has been placed on hold pending a federal inquiry. “The NYPD, in consultation with [U.S.] Attorney’s office, served the departmental charges at this time in order to preserve the disciplinary statute of limitations.” And it goes on from there. What is this federal inquiry? And what do you understand is happening?
ERICA GARNER: I just think all these investigations that’s going on, it’s like a game of ping-pong. They keep on bouncing back and forth: “Well, I’m waiting for this, I’m waiting for that.” I sat on a panel like last month with the civil rights liberty, and it was representatives from the Department of Justice. And I clearly looked the man in the eye, and I asked him—I was like, “If I was your family member, would you tell me the same thing, that I need to wait to see if any charges or anything—if, like, basically, if you’re in my position, how would feel, if I was your daughter?” And I told them, basically, you know, “Time is up. We demand answers, so we can have closure.” This has been dragging on for a year and a half, and there’s no sense for it to be a year and a half, if you can come up 18 months later and say, “Oh, well, this black officer, Kizzy Adonis, is guilty of failure to supervise.” That’s the only answer that we got after a year and a half.