The white New York City police officer whose choke hold led to the death of an unarmed black man has been sued three times for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of other blacks he and fellow cops arrested.
A grand jury decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo on Wednesday in the death of Eric Garner, 43, the man he wrestled to the ground during an attempted arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk in July, sparked waves of angry though largely peaceful demonstrations in several cities.
The Garner case wasn’t the first time Pantaleo, 29, was accused of misconduct, however.
Darren Collins and Tommy Rice alleged in a 2013 federal court lawsuit that Pantaleo and at least four other officers subjected them to “humiliating and unlawful strip searches in public view” after handcuffing them during a March 2012 arrest on Staten Island.
The court complaint charged that the cops, searching for illegal drugs, “pulled down the plaintiffs’ pants and underwear, and touched and searched their genital areas, or stood by while this was done in their presence.”
Pantaleo and three of the officers repeated the searches after they took the suspects to Staten Island’s 120th police precinct, the complaint alleged.
Charges against Collins and Rice, who said they had done nothing wrong, ultimately were dismissed and sealed. The city settled their lawsuit last year, court records show.
Separately, Rylawn Walker alleged that Pantaleo and other cops falsely arrested him on Staten Island for alleged marijuana possession in February 2012. His federal lawsuit against the cops maintained that Walker “was committing no crime at that time and was not acting in a suspicious manner.”
City lawyers have denied the allegations, and the case is pending.
The marijuana charges against Walker were dismissed and sealed on a motion by Staten Island prosecutors, defense lawyer Michael Colihan wrote in an August 2014 letter to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.
“To put it mildly, many police on Staten Island have been playing fast, loose and violently with the public they seem to have forgotten they are sworn to protect,” wrote Colihan. “After litigating about 200 of these civil rights matters in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York since 1977, I have seen no interest by the managers of the New York City Police Department, or anyone employed by the city of New York, in doing anything to stop this.”
SOURCE: Kevin McCoy