On Wednesday, Black America was hit with a massive punch to its collective gut as we learned a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner.
Despite video evidence that captured the entire incident leading up to Garner being drug down to the ground and exclaiming 11 times “I can’t breathe,” the 23 person panel, comprised of 14 Whites and 9 non-Whites, decided to not indict Pantaleo for his actions that caused the death of Garner.
Rep. Rangel told Martin, “They say the grand jury procedure is private, is secret, but the public is screaming out what happened in that room?”
“If a person dies, it is declared to be a homicide and half a dozen policemen are around him, how did he die? So you just can’t come out and say no indictment, no true bill. And so we are screaming that we find out just how could they have reached this ridiculous conclusion.”
Rangel added, “Even if we’re going to assume and we should not, it was a heart attack. It was brought on about the physical attack which was an illegal chokehold on the victim.
Lisa Bloom a civil rights attorney tweeted yesterday that she is ashamed of the legal system in America.
Bloom told Martin, “we now have public killings of African Americans on our streets and then secret trials, is this America?”
“We’re going in the wrong direction, I’ve covered the George Zimmerman case extensively, I wrote a book of how bad the prosecution was in that case. Here we are two cases later, Mike Brown and Eric Garner, those prosecutors look terrific compared to what’s happened in the last two cases.”
Bloom added, “At least the prosecutors in the George Zimmerman case charged the man and put him on trial and treated the family with respsect. None of that happened in the Mike Brown case and in the Eric Garner case we have a video.”
“I don’t think this grand jury decision can be explained other than prosecutorial incompetence or worse,” Bloom said. “Clearly prosecutors don’t want indictments in these cases they treat them differently than every other case.”
Bloom, who has been practicing law for more than 20 years continued, “I think this is the lowest point for civil rights in America since I’ve been practicing law.”
Former military police officer and now funny man, Gary Owen, joined Roland Martin Thursday on “NewsOne Now” to discuss the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases, as well as police encounters with African Americans in general.
Owen, often referred to as “Black America’s favorite White comic” by Martin, is married to an African American woman and has a biracial son. As such, he has seen “both sides” of the issue that is tearing many Black communities apart as police officers kill Black men with impunity.
“In the Eric Garner case, if you turn the volume down, its literally like one of those internet viral videos where some guy is getting jumped. ‘Cause that cop was waiting in the wings and he just pounced on him. And then he tried to take his body weight and lean back with him. It’s basically a UFC hold. It was designed to choke you out.”
“Guys tap out in the UFC for that type of stuff,” Owen said.
Owens detailed how he handled car stops when an African American driver was involved, giving two examples of how one DUI stopped ended with him taking the offender home and another where he felt as though he had to arrest the driver.
Owen summed up his approach to policing by saying how people “dealt with me dictated the situation. I never looked at it like, I pulled you over, I have to arrest you. I always looked at it like let me see how this is going to go.”
As a law enforcement official, Owen said, “I’ve always had compassion for people too.”
Owen felt as though there was a lack of compassion for Garner.
Martin asked Owen, “Do you take into account that you are going to have that different kind of conversation with your son?”
Owen replied, “I do. I always say how you can disarm a situation is be extra polite.”
“Go in there expecting the worst, but hoping for the best, but no matter what the cop said, you just gotta say yes sir, no sir; yes ma’am, no ma’am. ‘Cause you can fight it later.”
Two things Owen believes didn’t happen on August 9th are: “Mr. Wilson (Darren Wilson) wasn’t very polite when he told him (Mike Brown) to move by the sidewalk and the other end I know Mike Brown did not say ‘yes sir’ and walk to the side.
Owen also believes “that [the] situation escalated and just got out of control fast, where it could have been squashed immediately if Officer Wilson would have politely asked him to get on the sidewalk.”
All that and more in this edition of the NewsOne Now Audio Podcast.