Saturday, December 6, 2014

What really happened to Eric Garner?

I keep hearing Eric Garner being described as having been choked to death by a police officer.  I've watched the video many times, and I'm not so sure that's what happened.  The officer had his arm around Garner's neck for most of the video, but not in a choke hold.  I believe the officer was using what police call a "lateral vascular neck restraint" to partially restrict blood flow; this type of restraint shouldn't affect air flow when done properly.

It's true that Garner screamed several times that he couldn't breathe, but if you watch the video closely all the way to the end you'll notice that he continues to scream that he can't breathe even after the arm is gone from around his neck.  The medical examiner ruled that the cause of death was a combination of the neck hold and the weight placed upon Garner's back while he was on the ground; I strongly suspect that it had much more to do with the latter than the former.  Police need to be more careful about putting too much weight on someone who is being held on the ground, especially in cases where the person being restrained is already morbidly obese.

Garner's asthma was probably a factor here too, but I don't think we could really expect the officer in question to have known about that.  Garner knew about his own asthma, though, and screaming like a maniac from the get-go before the police even tried to touch him probably wasn't the best idea--if hysterical fits of laughter can trigger asthma attacks, then I don't see why hysterical fits of screaming couldn't do the same.  ( And being a grown-ass man, Garner should've realized that screaming fits tend to not make very good get-out-of-jail-free cards anyway. )

I can understand thinking that confiscatory cigarette taxes are stupid, especially while making it easier for people to get marijuana at the same time, but the whole reason that police exist is to uphold the law, so I can only be so angry at them for enforcing the laws that I don't like; I'll save that anger for the people who actually write these stupid laws and push to get them passed.  As far as this particular case goes, the focus should be on whether or not the officer followed proper procedure and whether or not that procedure needs to be changed.

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