“I Can’t Breathe!”
It is likely that a police officer will say they used excessive force on a suspect because they tried resisting arrest and put the officer in harms way. Resisting arrest could be fleeing an officer while being arrested, threatening an officer, attacking a police officer or giving false identification such as name and date of birth. In some countries, resisting arrest is a criminal charge and most police officers have the right to use excessive force to control a suspect. However, in most states if the excessive force causes ‘great bodily harm’ to the suspect they have the right to defend themselves.
On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner spoke his final words on a city block in Staten Island, New York “I can’t breathe!” Garner was well known in the area for selling untaxed cigarettes nearby the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and was arrested twice and charged with circumventing state tax law earlier that same year. However, on this specific day police officers Justin Damico and Daniel Pantaleo took it entirely too far as they immediately recognized Garner and attacked before questioning or before Garner could give signs of resisting arrest. Unarmed Garner’s life was taken at the bare hands of white officer Pantaleo as a result of a chokehold that was recorded by multiple people on the streets of Staten Island. While choking Garner as he tried to “resist arrest” many heard his cry for help as the unarmed man yelled “I can’t breathe!” Instead of being released from the chokehold, Officer Pantaleo and other officers who were at the scene left Garner handcuffed and motionless on the ground without instantly seeking proper medical attention. Before videos were released of the chaos that took place most people had no idea how Garner’s death took place or if the police were the reason behind it.
In most cases it is common that police officers will claim that they used excessive force as a way of controlling a suspect who tried to resist arrest. However, what if the suspect doesn’t show signs of resisting arrest? What is the officer to do? After July 17, 2014 police officers demonstrated that excessive force is used frequently and is fact abused as they result to using it without the suspect showing signs of resisting arrest or having any questionable reasoning.
Baker, Al, J. Goodman, and Benjamin Mueller. “Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner’s Death.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 June 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
“Resisting Arrest When Police Use Excessive Force | Nolo.com.” Nolo.com. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.