The Associated Press reports that the New York City Police Department sent detectives to Ferguson, Missouri in order to gather intelligence on “professional agitators” as the grand jury investigating the chokehold death of a Staten Island man draws to a close.
On July 17, Eric Garner went into cardiac arrest and died after police placed him in a chokehold for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes.
In a video of the confrontation, Garner can be heard saying, “I didn’t sell anything, I’m minding my own business.” Officer Daniel Pantaleo is then seen putting him in a chokehold as other officers help tackle him. While on the ground, Garner can be heard shouting, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” until he lost consciousness.
Police stated that Garner had multiple arrests for selling untaxed cigarettes, and that he was due in court in October on charges related to one of those arrests. Witnesses at the scene insisted that Garner was attempting to break up a fight when police arrived, and his family claimed that he had no cigarettes on his person or in his car at the time of his death.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said that “you’d have to be blind to not see what happened. I can’t see why it should take so long to reach a decision.”
It will be up to the grand jury to decide whether Officer Pantaleo should face criminal charges for his role in Garner’s death, but Police Commissioner William Bratton wants to be sure that the violence that accompanied the release of the Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson does not repeat itself in his city.
To that end, the commissioner sent detectives to Ferguson to learn about the tactics of “professional agitators.” During the Occupy protests in 2012, the NYPD circulated “wanted posters” featuring mugshots of agitators that informed protesters to “be aware that subjects are known professional agitators” whose “MO” is to videotape officers “performing routine stops and post them on YouTube.”
Bratton added that the detective’s trip was routine. “We’re always and constantly networking and trying to make ourselves accessible and reaching out,” he said.