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Retired NYC cop understands officer mindset in confrontations

Posted December 3, 2014
Updated December 4, 2014

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— During his 20-year career as a New York City police officer, Bob Young was involved in all types of situations, including bank robberies, interstate kidnappings and street patrol.

So when NYC officer Daniel Pantaleo used an apparent chokehold to subdue Eric Garner, Young understands what an officer goes through in such situations.

“In the heat of combat, when you're fighting with somebody, you're not thinking about what you're doing sometimes,” said Young, who lives in Cary. “It's the process of getting somebody under control so they don't hurt you.”

Pantaleo encountered Garner, 43, on a Staten Island, N.Y. street in July for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Garner, in video shot by an onlooker, told police to leave him alone as they attempted to arrest him. Pantaleo responded by putting Garner in an apparent chokehold, which the New York City Police Department said is banned under their use of force policy.

The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, was heard repeatedly gasping, "I can't breathe,” according to news reports. He later died.

The last thing a police officer wants to do is take a life, Young said.

“My objective was to make sure the citizens of New York were safe, but also to go home to my family at the end of the day, to make sure I was safe to take care of them,” he said.

Pantaleo echoed similar remarks in a statement.

"I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can't protect themselves," he said, according to news reports. "It is never my intention to harm anyone, and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner."

A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and determined that the chokehold was a contributing factor. But a grand jury on Wednesday found “no reasonable cause” to indict Pantaleo, resulting in multiple demonstrations across the city.

"I couldn't see how a grand jury could vote and say there was no probable cause," said Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, according to news reports. "What were they looking at? Were they looking at the same video the rest of the world was looking at?"

Federal officials said they would conduct an investigation into the incident.

Wednesday’s decision echoed a similar conclusion in Ferguson, Mo., where a grand jury also decided not to indict a white police officer in the death of a black subject. The decision led to violent protests in the St. Louis suburb, demonstrations across the country and questions regarding the relationship between law enforcement and African-American communities.

Young said both incidents should force police departments to refocus their efforts on community policing.

“The problem is sometimes, people don't understand how to intermingle together, right, and that's going to be a problem no matter what you do,” he said. “Sometimes you don't get the right fit. Sometimes they shouldn't be in law enforcement.They shouldn't have that job.”

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  • Terry Lightfoot Dec 4, 2014
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    OK...then use a baton behind the knee or something - does our jiu jitsu friend care to elaborate on jointlocks?

  • Terry Lightfoot Dec 4, 2014
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    The cop should at least had a charge of reckless endangerment. ( that's a crime - look it up) Reckless endangerment would have sent the case to trial and then the jury would have a full look into the ENTIRE scenario - including what the cops did, or did not do after they got the cuffs on. Did the perform CPR, did the cops call 911, did they check his vital signs? Sure Garner did not comply with the officers request - but he held his arms up WHEN the 1st officer touched him.
    What was his crime? Public nusance? Selling cigs unlawfully to make some money and avoid the $5 tax per NY pack? If Grand Juries measuring stick is only criminal intent and NOT any sort of negligence - then the standard should be changed and changed NOW.

  • Tom Smith Dec 4, 2014
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    absolute lies. 100% provable lies you are spreading. taser international has been successfully sued once out of thousands of suits. 1 time. oh and the suit was overturned on appeal. tasers (stun guns) have never, ever, ever caused a death by means of the actual delivery of the shock. now, there have been cases of dopes deploying a taser against people in trees or on ledges or running or in a body of water in which case the tased person falls or drowns or hits their head etc which caused death. there was even a case where during a vehicle pursuit the guy crashed and a can of gas in the passenger area of his car doused him. when the officer ran up and tased him, he burst into flames. but tasers do not cause heart attacks. they do not fry your brain. they do not cause heart arrhythmias...etc. you are a liar sir

  • ss3510 Dec 4, 2014

    In all professions, when you do something illegal, you pay the consequences.

    America has allowed Police Officers and Bankers to commit fraud, break laws, committ crimes.....and go unpunished!

    It is the clear sign of entering into a Fascist Police State.

  • Tom Smith Dec 4, 2014
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    lightfoot, I love you brother, but you are the king of bad analogies! lol. if you pushed some one in a lake (because they were on fire) and they couldn't swim....etc. I changed it because just pushing some one in a lake is assault and not justified. in this case putting him on the ground was justified. if the person in your analogy was on fire, then pushing them in a lake would be justified because it is reasonable. note that I didn't address the chokehold. I'm still undecided on whether that was reasonable or not.

  • joefurloughski Dec 4, 2014

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    Since 2001, stun guns have been listed as a cause or contributing factor in more than 60 deaths in the United States, according to the human rights advocacy group Amnesty International. More than 540 people have died after police use of stun guns in that time, the group said. In 2012, an American Heart Association report linked stun gun use to heart attacks and deaths.

  • smdrn Dec 4, 2014

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    I agree with what you said. Garner contributed to his own death in several ways. First, he refused to cooperate. Then he resisted arrest. Instead of complying, he continued to resist until officers had to take him down. His own weight is what restricted his lungs to adequately inflate. Whenever we've had people of his size go into respiratory arrest, we never get them back. However, here's where the cops need to be held accountable...they refused to assist him when he cried out for help. They could have helped him to a sitting position at least.

    I agree with the GJ that he shouldn't have been charged, but that whole group needs to get some sort of punishment for failing to react to a man in distress.

  • Chris Perry Dec 4, 2014
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    This is the crux of the problem.....where did the line cross from "Protect and Serve" to "In the heat of Combat" I'm glad the Retired Officer is still retired

    Why don't you become a cop and deal with some of the gang bangers and you will see how it could be considered combat. It is not Mayeberry out there.

  • Lightfoot3 Dec 4, 2014

    "This man probably would have had trouble breathing just from laying on his stomach due to the pressure the fat in his body would put on his organs" - fbplayer1064


    And if someone PUTS him in that position, and HOLDS him in that position, despite his pleas that he can't breathe, then they should be liable for his death. That's why the coroner ruled this a HOMICIDE. And after he went into distress, they refused to render aid. They should be charged with involuntary or negligent homicide.


    If I push someone in a lake that can't swim, and they drown, I'm still responsible, even though they drowned because they couldn't swim.

  • Michael Hart Dec 4, 2014
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    “In the heat of combat, when you're fighting with somebody, you're not thinking about what you're doing sometimes,” said Young, who lives in Cary. “It's the process of getting somebody under control so they don't hurt you.”
    This is the crux of the problem.....where did the line cross from "Protect and Serve" to "In the heat of Combat" I'm glad the Retired Officer is still retired

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