The family of Eric Garner is asking for another chance at calling high-ranking city officials — including Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD police commissioners — in light of testimony this week in the ongoing judicial inquiry into Garner’s fatal 2014 arrest.
Garner’s family and other advocates, who sued in 2019 seeking the unusual legal proceeding, which began Monday, say that testimony from NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau Joseph Reznick Tuesday left many questions unanswered about disciplinary and prosecutorial decisions surrounding Garner’s death that now require testimony from other top city officials.
Reznick testified that while IAB did investigate, it didn’t have the final say on whether to bring charges against cops involved in the deadly chokehold arrest of Garner on Staten Island on July 17, 2014.
“It would go directly from an [IAB] investigator to the [NYPD’s] Department Advocate’s Office, and it would be up to them to prepare and subsequently serve charges on the member,” Reznick said at the inquiry — which is being held virtually.
“[T]hey are distinct and different than us. They are the prosecutors. We are the investigators,” Reznick said.
Garner’s family argues that Reznick’s testimony shows DAO Deputy Commissioner Kevin Richardson, among others, should be called to answer questions under oath since the DAO would have been in charge of deciding whether to prosecute the cops involved.
Richardson was on a list of witnesses — including the mayor and past and current police commissioners — that Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Erika Edwards previously ruled couldn’t be forced to testify, noting that other lower-level officials “may have more direct knowledge of the subject matter of this inquiry.”
Garner’s family says that information was unknown to the judge at the time and the fact that she may have “misapprehended the excluded witnesses’ level of involvement in the NYPD’s disciplinary and investigatory process” warrants the judge’s reconsideration, according to papers filed by the Garner family lawyers late Wednesday.
Garner’s family and advocates have sought answers on why it took five years for the departmental trial of since-fired cop Daniel Pantaleo to take place. Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold as Garner cried out “I can’t breathe” before he succumbed to an asthma attack.
Garner family lawyer Alvin Bragg said in a statement that Reznick’s testimony confirmed that “there are others within the city and the NYPD who haven’t yet been required by the court to testify but have the power, ability and duty to require a more thorough scope of misconduct investigations and should have required additional firing and discipline of officers.”
During his daily press briefing Thursday, de Blasio said he would defer comment to the city Law Department.
“The inquiry was, everyone understood, about the events of the day and those who were present at the site that day, but I’ll defer any other details [and] questions to the Law Department,” the mayor said.
A Law Department spokesperson said, “There is no basis for the court to revisit its earlier decision.”