Eight years ago I represented the family of Ramarley Graham, an 18 year-old young man of color who was shot and killed in his own home by NYC police officers. Ramarley had committed no crime, yet he was chased down by NYPD officers who broke into his home and shot and killed him in front of his grandmother and younger brother.
Within a few weeks Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in the State of Florida. Trayvon too, was a young man of color who had committed no crime, yet was followed and shot because he was acting “suspicious.”
Two years later, Eric Garner, a father and grandfather, was choked to death by P.O. Daniel Pantaleo. Garner’s crime: selling unlicensed individual cigarettes.
Sadly, the list is long, and littered with stories of deaths at the hands of highly aggressive police officers. Almost all of the incidents involve the excessive and unnecessary use of force against people of color. When will it end?
Most recently, an extremely disturbing video emerged showing the killing of George Floyd at the hands Minneapolis police. I write killing, because that is exactly what it appears to be.
Police officers are required to use the minimum degree of force necessary to effectuate compliance and arrest. Choke holds and chest compressions are prohibited as these “police tactics” are well known to obstruct airways and prevent the free flow of air, often resulting in death or serious injury. Yet, the practice is alive and well, although not often captured on video.
The Minneapolis police officer clearly pinned Floyd’s neck between the officer’s knee and the ground. Floyd’s distress was obvious to all. He is heard moaning, groaning, and telling the officers that he can’t breathe. Several onlookers are heard telling the officers that Floyd was not responsive. Nevertheless nothing was done to help Floyd. All officers present were complicit in Floyd’s death through their failure to take any action to intercede and stop this tragedy.
In my opinion, Floyd was killed. This must end. There must be justice.