NYPD cops thought Eric Garner was ‘playing possum’: testimony

NYPD cops believed Eric Garner was “playing possum” when he passed out after allegedly being placed in a banned chokehold during his ultimately fatal 2014 arrest, officers testified Tuesday during Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s departmental trial.

“He was unresponsive, yes,” said Pantaleo’s partner, Officer Justin D’Amico, taking the stand for the first time in the One Police Plaza proceeding.

“And you tried to stand him up?” asked Civilian Complain Review Board attorney Suzanne O’Hare, taking D’Amico through a re-telling of the July 2014 day when he and Pantaleo stopped Garner for allegedly pushing loose cigarettes on the North Shore of Staten Island.

“Yes,” confirmed D’Amico.

“You believed he was playing possum?” asked O’Hare.

“Yes,” replied D’Amico.

“Did you know he wasn’t breathing?” probed the attorney.

“I don’t know,” D’Amico responded.

D’Amico’s testimony came after similar sentiments from fellow Officer William Meems — who arrived on the scene and got out of his squad car in time to see Garner, 43, on the ground.

“At one point, yes, they tried to stand him up,” testified Meems. “I never observed his eyes roll in his head.

“I believe it was a possibility he was feigning unconsciousness.”

Garner — who was caught on video repeatedly gasping, “I can’t breathe,” in his final moments of consciousness — was pronounced dead a short time later at an area hospital.

Pantaleo is now on trial for violating department policy. He could face penalties up to and including termination.

But the hearing came to an unexpected standstill later Tuesday, when the defense was granted until June 5 to fly in St. Louis medical examiner Michael Graham. Graham is expected to concur with an earlier finding by NYPD Supervising Chief Surgeon Eli Kleinman that Garner’s pre-existing medical issues, and not a chokehold, killed him.

Another medical examiner, Dr. Floriana Persechino, previously testified that the chokehold allegedly applied by Pantaleo “set into motion a lethal sequence of events.”


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