Vinson: Chokehold: Where's the ref?

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A few columns back, I addressed the shooting death of Michael Brown, a large, 18-year-old, black man, by police officer Darren Wilson, 28, white. The incident took place August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and demonstrations and rioting commenced immediately!

November 24, 2014, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, white, announced on national television that Officer Wilson "would not face charges" for the shooting death of Michael Brown. After Prosecutor McCulloch's announcement, the rioting grew more intense, reaching a "hellish" level: setting buildings afire, pillaging, assaulting, even reported deaths. Resultant of the tragedy in Ferguson, similar chaos broke out all across the United States . . . and has continued ever since.

I stated for the record I was convinced Officer Darren Wilson acted in "self-defense" in the tragic slaying of Michael Brown, and, too, that some people are just "waiting for an excuse to go off on another race . . . to vent their own viral hatred!" I continue to maintain those same perspectives.

Now to the "Eric Garner" case . . .

Eric Garner, African-American, 43-years-old, was a large man himself, standing approximately 6 feet and 3 inches tall, and weighing around 350 pounds. A father of six, Garner had a criminal history, having been arrested "more than 30 times" for a variety of offenses, ranging from assault to resisting arrest to selling untaxed cigarettes.
Live, close-up video footage captured by a young man named "Ramsey Orta" provides--almost scene-by-scene--what went down between New York Police Department/NYPD cops and Eric Garner on July 17, 2014, in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island, New York:

SCENE ONE: Dressed in casual shorts and a T-shirt, Eric Garner, standing on Bay Street (in Staten Island), is approached by two NYPD cops, white, and accused of selling "loosies," defined as single cigarettes from a pack being sold minus appropriate taxation. Garner denies the allegations in a somewhat loud tone of voice, gesturing robustly--though non-threateningly--with his hands.

SCENE TWO: One of the two cops moves towards Garner, gets behind Garner, and places a restraint-type hold on him. Though Garner and the NYPD officer do struggle, Garner doesn't resist with any noticeable degree of violence.
SCENE THREE: A couple other NYPD cops move in, and four male policemen, all white, take Eric Garner to the ground. The policeman who initially grabbed Garner rides Garner's back and applies what appears to be a tight "chokehold" around Garner's neck as Garner falls from a standing position to his side, down on the street. Several other NYPD cops move in and help restrain Garner, rolling him over to a "facedown" position, pushing down on Garner's head, attempting to cuff him.

Obviously in a state of physical duress, Eric Garner is heard exclaiming, "I can't breathe!" a total of eleven times . . . until he goes motionless and silent.

SCENE FOUR: Still breathing, Garner is loaded onto a gurney, placed inside an ambulance, and dies en route to the hospital.

Did Eric Garner pose a legitimate threat to NYPD cops when they first approached and accused him of selling "loosies"? Indeed, Garner's immense size and boisterous behavior could've been sufficient cause to have put NYPD cops on red alert. If Garner, in fact, posed a threat, NYPD cops could've opted to "mace" or "taze" Garner.

Here's where I really have a problem, though: Once Garner was facedown on the street and subdued, no longer posed any sort of threat to NYPD officers, and Garner repeatedly said, "I can't breathe," NYPD officers should have, at least, attempted to position him so that he "could breathe"!

While a Staten Island grand jury recently cleared the NYPD in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, I am of the opinion the NYPD should be held accountable: Though Eric Garner was obese, had diabetes and heart problems, he might still be alive if the NYPD had "handled" him differently.

When it comes to race relations between black citizens and white policemen, America currently is in a "chokehold," and in dire need of a competent "referee," someone who can provide some "breathing room."

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Mike Vinson
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