On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner died in Staten Island, New York. Those even somewhat familiar with the case will remember his last words, “I can’t breathe.” They came as Officer Daniel Pantaleo put the son and father in a chokehold that ultimately claimed his life—a life that a police commander in the borough of Staten Island called “not a big deal.”
The revelation came on Thursday during a disciplinary hearing for Officer Pantaleo in lower Manhattan. On that fateful day in July 2014, Sgt. Dhanan Saminath messaged Lt. Christopher Bannon to tell him about the altercation with Garner. He explained that Garner was “most likely DOA” after he had been wrestled to the ground. Bannon, who was not on the scene, responded, “Not a big deal. We were effecting a lawful arrest.”
According to The New York Times, when the text messages containing Bannon’s apathetic words were read aloud, audible gasps could be heard in the courtroom. The new evidence presents an even more appalling look at one of the most notable police misconduct cases in New York City.
The Times also notes that when Lieutenant Bannon was pressed by prosecutor Suzanne O’Hare, to explain his text message, he claims he didn’t say it to be malicious. “It’s to make sure the officer knew he was put in a bad situation,” Bannon justifies.
When asked by O’Hare if he felt that Garner was put in a bad situation, Bannon hesitated before saying, “I don’t know how to answer that.”
Outside of the courtroom, Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother sounded off. “No big deal?” Carr heatedly repeated while addressing reporters. “If one of his loved ones was on the ground dead and someone came up to him and said, ‘It’s no big deal,’ how would you feel about it?”
Though the new evidence is alarming, Bannon will likely not face any charges, according to police.