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NYPD Officers Testify As Judicial Inquiry Into 2014 Death Of Eric Garner Gets Underway

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- NYPD officers testified Monday about the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

It's part of a rare judicial inquiry into Garner's death and New York City's handling of the investigation that followed, CBS2's Nick Caloway reported.

Garner's mother Gwen Carr said she waited seven years for transparency and accountability for what she calls the murder of her son.

Garner was killed by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo on a Staten Island sidewalk. Cops were trying to arrest Garner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes when Pantaleo used a prohibited chokehold. Garner's last words were "I can't breathe."

Pantaleo was never criminally charged, but he was fired from the force in 2019.

"Pantaleo is the one who ultimately killed Eric. But there was others. It wasn't only Pantaleo," Carr said.

Garner's family reached a settlement with the city, but his killing is returning to public view in the form of a judicial review. The hearings are virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic and media is not allowed to record or show footage of them.

The first witness called to testify was Lieutenant Christopher Bannon, an NYPD supervisor on Staten Island in 2014. Bannon said he saw a group of people at the location where Garner was later killed. He admitted he didn't see any illegal activity, but still sent officers there to see if they were selling illegal cigarettes.

Carr's attorneys called it racial profiling that set the stage for Garner's death.

The attorneys also showed text messages from Bannon to another officer. Bannon, in response to Garner's death, texted, "Not a big deal, we were effecting a [lawful] arrest." Bannon said the text was meant to prevent cops from causing harm to themselves.

eric garner judicial inquiry text Lieutenant Christopher Bannon
(credit: CBS2)

Carr did not see it that way.

"And that was a real slap in the face. For you to say that it was not a big deal, and my son laid dead on the ground," she said. "There was no sympathy, no empathy. It was just business as usual."

Carr said there will be no justice for her son, but she's hoping for closure.

Unlike a traditional trial, the judicial review will not result in a legal ruling. There will be no verdict. Attorneys for Carr said they're hoping for transparency and more officers to be held accountable.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and top NYPD brass were not forced to testify. But de Blasio was asked about the judicial review Monday.

"I saw his mom, Gwen Carr, just a few days ago at an event, and I feel for her every time I see her. She's just a really good, warm, decent human being who has been put through hell," de Blasio said. "It's horrible. It's one of those days in New York City history that just continues to pain us. I wish somehow it never had happened. But look, there's been a lot done to try to address what happened and to try to move us forward, including the retraining of the entire police force in de-escalation and a lot of other changes that really have had an impact and really have made us better."

The hearings are expected to last two to three weeks. Around a dozen witnesses could be called.

CBS2's Nick Caloway contributed to this report.

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