Former Mayor David Dinkins blasted a Staten Island grand jury’s decision yesterday not to indict a police officer in the homicide of Eric Garner, but applauded the U.S. Department of Justice for its plans to open an investigation into the incident.
Speaking on the Geraldo Rivera radio show this morning, the city’s first black mayor expressed shock and anger at the grand jury’s determination that there was no reasonable cause to believe the white officer, Daniel Pantaleo, committed any crime in applying an apparent chokehold in an effort to subdue Garner, who was black, for selling untaxed cigarettes. But Mr. Dinkins expressed hope that a federal investigation announced yesterday would view the incident differently.
“I think it’s a damn shame, frankly,” he said. “I frankly am astounded that the grand jury could find in this instance no culpability. But it’s not over yet.”
Mr. Dinkins alluded to the infamous video of the fatal encounter, in which Garner can be heard repeating “I can’t breathe” with Mr. Pantaleo on his back with the cop’s forearm around his neck.
“Those of us who saw the video, I think everybody I talked to, thinks the guy is guilty of something,” Mr. Dinkins said.
The legendary Harlem politician, who once employed young aide named Bill de Blasio, called for demonstrations to continue as long as they remain nonviolent, and offered his sympathies to the Garner family.
“As long as the demonstrations are peaceful, I think they ought to continue as long as people feel the need,” Mr. Dinkins said, then directing his comments toward Mr. Garner’s wife, mother, six children and two grandchildren. “We can only hope that they will find some comfort as Dr. King used to remind us, death is not a period but a comma. So I hope that will give his family some consolation.”