Like one of Eric Garner’s daughters stressed to CNN last week, the widow of the 43-year-old man who died after being placed in a chokehold move by an NYPD officer said it’s not an issue of race.
Esaw Garner and her late husband met as kids, and had been together more than two decades before his July death on Staten Island.
The videotape of the encounter and the grand jury’s decision last week to not indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo sparked outrage, as has a new video showing unconcerned officers around Garner as he lay unconscious on the sidewalk.
“I feel that he was murdered unjustly. I feel like — I don’t even feel like it’s a black and white thing, honestly, you know, in my opinion. I really don’t feel like it’s a black and white thing. I feel like it’s just something that he continued to do and the police knew, you know, they knew. It wasn’t like it was a shock. They knew. You know?” Esaw Garner told Meet the Press on Sunday.
Eric Garner is seen at the beginning of the video frustrated, complaining that police are always hassling him. He’d been previously arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
“They knew him by name. They harassed us. They said things to us. We would go shopping. You know, they — hi, cigarette man. Hey, cigarette man and wife. You know, stuff like that,” Esaw said.
“I would just say, I would just keep walking, don’t say anything, don’t respond, you know, don’t give them a reason to do anything to you. And he just felt like — but they keep harassing me. And I say, just ignore them, Eric. He said, how much can I ignore them? I would say, just stay away from the block. You know? Just find something else to do.”
She acknowledged that he was a heavy guy whose health issues got in the way of his attempt to work at the city’s Parks Department. But, she stressed, “I feel like he was murdered.”
And she hopes that Pantaleo will someday, somehow get his day in court. “It would only be right not only for my husband but for all the other young men and women and my sons. I have two sons, you know, that I have to train now. I have a 15-year-old. I won’t even let him go two blocks away from my house,” Esaw said. “On Halloween night, he wanted to go out trick or treating. And I kept him in the house. I went and bought him all kinds of candy from Duane Reade and told him, please stay in the house. I just don’t want him to go outside because now that everybody knows who he is, you know, that he’s Eric Garner’s son, you know, I fear.
“And now my other son is in college. And he is in Jersey in Newark, and I make him call me — he’s like, mom, I’m 20. Call me like at least in the morning before you go to class, when you get out of school, don’t go to no parties, don’t do this. You know, I’m so afraid of what could happen to them in the street, by the police. I’m afraid of the police.”
She has since left Staten Island.
“I’m not going to say he was a career criminal. But I’m going to say he had a past of being arrested. And he never, not once, ever resisted arrest. He has done a little bit of time,” she said of her late husband. “He accepted his time when the judge handed it to him.”