The partner of the officer accused of using a banned chokehold during the arrest of Eric Garner said he wrote up paperwork exaggerating the seriousness of the suspected crime. Officer Justin D'Amico testified Tuesday during the disciplinary trial of his partner officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is not facing criminal charges, but is facing possible firing.
Garner was suspected of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. D'Amico testified he filled out arrest papers after Garner died that included a felony tax charge that he was selling 10,000 untaxed cigarettes.
D'Amico acknowledged it was not the correct charge. D'Amico said Garner had fewer than 100 cigarettes on him when police tried to arrest him.
A medical examiner testified last week that Pantaleo used a chokehold on Garner and set into motion "a lethal sequence of events." Garner, who had asthma, suffered a heart attack in an ambulance and was pronounced dead at a hospital. Pantaleo's attorney Stuart London has argued that Pantaleo didn't use a chokehold, but rather an academy-taught "seatbelt technique." London argued during opening statements last week that Garner's chronic asthma made him a "ticking time bomb."
D'Amico also claimed he could see Garner selling the cigarettes from an estimated distance of 200 feet. But a prosecutor with the Civilian Complaint Review Board said he was 328 feet away, reports the New York Daily News.
D'Amico said he believed Garner may have been "playing possum" when he was lying on the sidewalk, the paper reports. Garner's pleas of "I can't breathe" have become a rallying cry against police brutality.
In a statement released Tuesday, the police officers' union, the Police Benevolent Association, described Garner as "irate" before the arrest and said D'Amico and Pantaleo used "textbook de-escalation techniques," talking to Garner for about 10 minutes in an attempt to calm him before trying to place him in handcuffs.
D'Amico said he had seen Garner selling cigarettes several weeks earlier and had given him a warning, the union said in the statement.
A final decision about Pantaleo's punishment lies with the police commissioner.