Forgive me if I’m not surprised that a grand jury didn’t indict the New York cop who choked Eric Garner to death. Don’t get me wrong–not indicting the guy who killed Garner in the act of arresting him for selling illegal cigarettes is a travesty of justice. Garner said 11 times–ELEVEN TIMES–that he couldn’t breathe, and the cop still choked him to death. People should be taking to the streets over this–everywhere.
No, my pessimism comes from being all too familiar with stories like this. People have been dying at the hands of cops all over the country for years, decades even, and rarely does anything happen. Hell, it happened here on Maui a decade ago, and nothing happened to the cops.
Guy’s name was Rick Gregory, and investigating his death while being arrested by three Maui police officers in Lahaina was my first big story for MauiTime (click here for a PDF of the April 15, 2004 issue that contained the story, titled “Was Rick Gregory Really a Danger?”).
Long story short, Gregory was on drugs or something, refused to leave a small Lahaina music studio and struggled with the three cops sent to arrest him. They couldn’t subdue him, and the rest is history:
“I could not control Gregory by pushing down on him, so I changed position to control him,” [MPD Officer Garret] Tihada reported. “I positioned my armpit on the back of his neck with my right arm under his neck and my right hand towards his right armpit. For about thirty seconds I could restrict Gregory’s movement due to my weight holding him down.”
That’s when Gregory began complaining that he couldn’t breathe. “He said, yeah, he said, ‘I cannot breathe, I cannot breathe,’” Tihada told a detective six hours after the incident. “I was like, ‘No, you can breathe because you’re talking to me. If you couldn’t breathe, you cannot talk… He must have said it about like 10 times.”
Ten times Gregory told the officers he couldn’t breathe.
Gregory’s family sued the County of Maui of course, but ultimately nothing happened, either for them or to Officers Nicholas Angell, Edwin Apong and Tihada.
So it goes.
If you missed it, here’s the link to MauiTime‘s April 15, 2004 issue: Issuu.com/mauitime/docs/vol_7_issue_42/5