NYPD Cop: Chokehold Was Wrestling Move
Officer's lawyer shares grand jury details as thousands protest
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2014 9:54 PM CST
Updated Dec 4, 2014 7:53 AM CST
Protesters with signs make their way up a congested Fifth Avenue sidewalk near Rockefeller Center.   (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
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(Newser) – "I can't breathe," protesters chanted in New York after a grand jury yesterday decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. The New York Times has details from Pantaleo's Nov. 21 grand jury testimony as described by his lawyer, Stuart London. London says the 29-year-old testified that he wasn't trying to use a chokehold, but rather a wrestling-style move he learned at the police academy: The intention was to hook one arm under Garner's arm, encircle Garner's torso with the other, and cause Garner to lose his balance and fall. Except Pantaleo says he got scared as the two struggled, and one arm shifted to Garner's neck. After the two went down, Pantaleo says he didn't yet move his arm because he was trying to get his own balance back and wanted to keep Garner from potentially biting arriving officers.

London says Pantaleo did hear Garner say he couldn't breathe, and "that's why he attempted to get off as quick as he could." But the Times points out that video from the scene shows "Officer Pantaleo holding firm and not appearing to hurry to get off Mr. Garner." More:

  • One lawyer speculates to the Times that the grand jury's decision was likely influenced by the autopsy report, which included obesity, a weak heart, and asthma as contributing factors along with the chokehold and chest compression: "There were so many causes of death in the autopsy report."
  • Thousands of protesters gathered at several locations in the city last night, including Times Square, for protests that remained largely peaceful, CNN reports. Demonstrators briefly blocked the West Side Highway, the Lincoln Tunnel, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Protesters chanting "No justice, no tree" gathered close to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center, although police wouldn't let them get close to the tree, CBS2 reports. Police say at least 17 people were cited for obstruction of vehicular traffic.
  • Garner's widow—whose first reaction to the grand jury decision was disbelief—says she will not accept the officer's apology, the New York Daily News reports. "Hell, no!" she said last night when asked if she would accept his condolences. "The time for remorse was when my husband was yelling to breathe."