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11 Facts You Should Know About Eric Garner's Death

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, a black man, was killed by a white NYPD officer. Here is the story behind his death.

1. Eric Garner had been busted before for selling untaxed cigarettes.

In March 2014, 43-year-old Eric Garner was arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. The NYPD cracks down on low-level offenses like these because of "broken-window policing" — a strategy that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani started in which low-level offenses are given harsh penalties. Why?


According to Giuliani:

    "Murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes. But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other.”

So untaxed cigarettes were also on the same spectrum as murder. A bit ironic given how much cigarettes negatively affect people's health, and yet none of the huge tobacco manufacturers are being pursued by the police.

Before you say, "But Eric was breaking the law!" keep this in mind. A pack of cigarettes. A pack of untaxed cigarettes. Let that image remain in your head.

2. The day he died, Garner was trying to break up a fight. When police arrived, the fight was over.

It happened on Staten Island. Two policemen spotted Garner successfully breaking up a fight between two other people.

In spite of this, the police didn't concern themselves much with the two people who were fighting. Instead, they focused on Garner.

3. The police again tried to arrest Eric for selling cigarettes.

Even though Garner had just stopped two people from assaulting each other, he was suddenly the culprit in the situation.

When the two policemen tried to arrest him, Garner's response was:

    “Every time you see me, you try to arrest me. I’m tired of it. It stops today.”

One of the policemen who tried to arrest Garner is Daniel Pantaleo.

4. Pantaleo placed Garner in a choke hold.

That image above? That's like the choke hold used on Eric. Pantaleo probably didn't know it, Eric was suffering from asthma.

5. Choke holds are banned by the NYPD.

Before you say, "But Pantaleo had the right to use force on a man who was breaking the law!" what he did was actually against the NYPD's rules as of 1993. By putting Garner in a choke hold, he was violating the rules he was bound to as a police officer. He did not have the authority to use that force.

A few days after Garner's death, Pantaleo was stripped of his badge and gun.

6. Garner died after the chokehold. His last words were, "I can't breathe."

His last words started trending on Twitter months later under the hashtag #ICantBreathe.

7. Four medics at the scene didn't give Garner CPR.

In a cellphone video, one of Garner's friends showed that neither the EMTs nor the policemen at the scene were giving him CPR, even though he was clearly unconscious.

This was after Garner's head hit the concrete, according to a friend, and blood was coming out of his mouth.

The four EMTs were suspended for two days without pay.

8. A medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide.

On Aug. 1, 2014, the NYC medical examiner linked Pantaleo's chokehold to Garner's death, as well as "prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

9. There was a video of Eric's death.

Out of respect, we're choosing not to include the video. This description from a Time article should be enough:

    Orta’s video shows what appears to be one officer pressing Garner’s face into the sidewalk as other officers attempt to subdue him. On the ground, Garner can be heard repeatedly saying "I can’t breathe."

How about the guy who filmed Garner's death, Ramsey Orta? Well...

10. A grand jury indicted the man who filmed Garner's death.

He wasn't indicted for filming the incident. But Orta was indicted on weapons charges about a month after he filmed Garner's death. According to the Huffington Post:

    Orta testified that the charges were falsely mounted by police in retaliation for his role in documenting Garner's death, but the grand jury rejected his contention, charging him with single felony counts of third-degree criminal weapon possession and criminal firearm possession.

And then, in a twist of fate...

11. A grand jury did not indict the police officer who killed Garner.

See the New York Times for the story.

So selling untaxed cigarettes ended up in a man dying and a policeman not facing charges. How can we call this justice?

10 out of 1,000 American police officers are accused of misconduct.

23.8% of those have been accused of excessive force.

68% of felony defendants in the general population are convicted.

However, only 33% of police accused of misconduct are convicted.

(All these facts are via FiveThirtyEight).

You can find out more about police abuse by checking out this ACLU action manual here. It might be from 1997, but you'd be surprised how relevant (sadly) it still is nearly 18 years later.

Prison Culture, which is a pretty epic blog, has some resources, too.

The Harvard Kennedy School also has some good readings collected by its center on media, politics, and public policy that you should totally check out if you have the time.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

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