A police commander in New York City’s Staten Island received text messages from an officer in 2014, informing him that a man identified as Eric Garner had been arrested, and was “most likely DOA” after he had been wrestled to the ground. “Not a big deal,” the lieutenant replied. “We were effecting a lawful arrest.” Audible gasps were heard as the texts were read aloud on Thursday during a police disciplinary hearing for officer Daniel Pantaleo, the New York Times reports. He is accused of recklessly using a chokehold that led to Garner’s death after he was detained on the suspicion that he was selling untaxed cigarettes.
The texts and testimony provided unsettling new details in one of the city’s most wrenching cases of suspected police misconduct. Garner’s dying words “I can’t breathe” — repeated 11 times — set off protests around the U.S. and became a powerful slogan for the Black Lives Matter movement. The texts between commander,Lt. Christopher Bannon and Sgt. Dhanan Saminath were revealed for the first time on the fourth day of the hearing for Officer Pantaleo, who faces possible termination. He has never faced criminal charges. A grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict Officer Pantaleo in 2014. A federal civil rights inquiry has dragged on for years without charges being filed. The statute of limitations expires on July 17, the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death.