Eric Garner’s mother watched judicial proceeding on NYPD killing while at work, outraged by lack of transparency

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For the last two weeks, Eric Garner’s mother sat at her desk at a Staten Island office, continuing to work while listening to NYPD cops testify in graphic detail about her son’s killing in a police chokehold.

Gwen Carr, who became a national figure in the movement for police reform following Garner’s death on July 17, 2014, multitasked during the landmark judicial proceeding she sought for years.

One moment she was outraged by a cop’s testimony. The next, she had to step away and collect herself when a video of her son’s death was played yet again. The next, she managed payroll.

“I have to listen to this over and over again. I have to relive my son’s murder over and over again. And this is not easy. Sometimes when they’re testifying, I have to mute. What really angers me, they’re lying. They’re covering up for each other,” said Carr.

“It takes a toll.”

While the NYPD cops testified, Carr, 72, listened while working as an office manager at KA Investigations, a private security company on Bay St.

Ex-Officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold on the same street, roughly 2 miles north, near Victory Blvd.

“It’s a terrible position,” Carr said. “They’re getting paid to come to this inquiry, where my daughter, myself ... have to make adjustments.

“We do what we have to do.”

The historic proceeding, which the court convened under a rarely invoked provision of the City Charter rooted in the corruption of the Boss Tweed era in the 19th century, was held remotely. It ended Friday.

“I sit here, and I watch, and sometimes I have to turn the sound down because I just can’t listen to them with their lies and their deceit and their misconceptions,” Carr said.

“That’s why we needed an in-person trial, because then the witnesses would have to look you in the face.”

The hearing highlighted the sequence of events leading to Garner’s death. It began with a meeting at 1 Police Plaza in March 2014 at which NYPD brass ordered more enforcement of quality-of life-offenses, including illegal sales of loose cigarettes. A lieutenant at that meeting testified that four months later, he saw a group of men lingering on Bay St. and ordered a sergeant to investigate.

That sergeant then sent plainclothes Police Officers Justin D’Amico and Pantaleo to the scene.

D’Amico testified that he observed Garner — a football field’s length away — sell a single loose cigarette. He said a second sighting prompted him to move in for an arrest with Pantaleo, who did not witness either transaction.

What happened next was caught on video and sparked protests around the world. Garner cried out, “I can’t breathe,” 11 times before dying in the street.

Further testimony focused on the lack of medical care the father of five received, as well as bogus charges D’Amico filed against Garner after he was dead.

“It’s humiliating to sit there and watch them, these lies come out of their mouths. And they don’t even flinch,” Carr said of the cops on the virtual stand.

“It’s not easy. It’s frustrating to watch this inquiry, because it’s a mockery of what it should be.”

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Erika Edwards denied Carr’s request to hold the hearing in person. The judge cited the coronavirus pandemic and safety precautions.

Like all other online court proceedings held in New York over the last 18 months, technical difficulties plagued the inquiry. Throughout the eight days the court heard testimony, the stream frequently froze, prompting daily complaints from public viewers and the press.

Cops on the stand have frequently apologized to Carr, while insisting they weren’t hiding the truth from her.

“There was no coverup in this case here,” NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau Deputy Commissioner Joseph Reznick said. “Ms. Carr, as a father of three sons, I’m sorry. I cannot imagine how you must feel about the incident. If I had the power to turn back the clock and go back to July 17, 2014, and change the circumstances, I would.”

Carr and her allies say they still lack answers on critical issues. They wonder why the Internal Affairs Bureau did not investigate officers other than Pantaleo despite multiple recommendations from the Civilian Complaint Review Board. The judge did not permit Carr’s lawyers to question any NYPD officials with disciplinary powers.

And they wanted to know why the Department Advocate’s Office, which acts as an internal police prosecutor, played no known investigatory role in Garner’s high-profile killing.

Despite her frustration, Carr said, she’d learned more about the other cops linked to her son’s death. Pantaleo, whom the NYPD fired in 2019, did not testify.

“In this inquiry, I have learned a few things that I didn’t know before, because there was so much hidden,” noted Carr.

She was particularly outraged by Officer D’Amico’s claim that he saw Garner sell a single loose cigarette from 350 feet away.

“From that distance, it’s impossible for you to see someone handing someone else a cigarette in exchange for money. Impossible. He is the only person that ever said they saw Eric selling cigarettes that day,” Carr said.

The officer later testified he made a “total mistake” by filing a tax-avoidance felony against Garner that applies to people possessing at least 10,000 cigarettes, 22,000 cigars, or more than 400 pounds of tobacco. Carr’s lawyers played a video of D’Amico removing 95 cigarettes and a cell phone from a dying Garner’s pockets during the inquiry.

Without the video, she believes Garner’s death would have been “swept under the rug.”

“When they’re saying what they did or didn’t do, the video speaks for itself,” she said.