Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Blowback After Grand Jury Decides Against Indictment in Garner Case; New Yorkers Protest Non-Indictment Verdict; Eric Garner's Widow Speaks; How Legal Are Chokeholds and Are There Alternatives?
Aired December 3, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening, everyone.
For the second time in nine days, people are protesting, this time, in the biggest media spotlight on earth reacting to a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer in the death of an African-American man. You can debate the rightness of those decisions or their wisdom. And our guests tonight including director Spike Lee, certainly will.
However, there is no arguing this. As you can see from the crowds, up on your screen, for a lot of people, on all sides of the issue from President Obama on down what happened in Ferguson last week and on New York City's Staten Island today, matters very deeply.
Today, Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a New York police officer in the death of Eric Garner back in July. It happened during an arrest on allegations that Mr. Garner was selling tax-free loose cigarettes or loosies as they're called. In the process, the police officer put him in what by all appearances was called a chokehold. A short time later, Mr. Garner was dead. Unlike in Ferguson, the fatal encounter was caught on camera.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC GARNER, 43-YEAR-OLD: I'm minding my business, officer. Leave me alone. I told you the last time, please leave me alone. Don't touch me. (Bleep) don't touch me.
I can't breathe, I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once again, poses beating up on people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You hear Mr. Garner repeatedly saying there, I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
Today, having seen that and heard testimony from the officer, a grand jury made up of 14 white and non-white members decline to indict him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR BILL DE BLAZIO, NEW YORK: It's a very emotional day for our city. It's a very painful day for so many New Yorkers. That is the core reality. So many people in the city are feeling pain right now. And we're grieving again over the loss of Eric Garner who was a father, a husband, a son, a good man, a man who should be with us and isn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's New York mayor Bill de Blazio late today.
President Obama who took up the issue police reform in the wake of Ferguson, also spoke out today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an issue we've been dealing with for too long and it's time for us to make more progress than we've made. And I'm not interested in talk. I'm interested in action. And I am absolutely committed as president of the United States to making sure that we have a country that everybody believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, we're waiting to hear from the Garner family themselves. They are expected to speak in Harlem any minute now at a press conference. We'll bring you that news conference when it happens. And then we believe we'll be speaking with them individually on this program.
We have correspondents out around the city as well. Chris Cuomo who is in the thick of things in Ferguson is out on the streets of his hometown in New York, so our Deborah Feyerick, Alexander field. Let's go first to Alexandra.
What are you seeing right now -- actually, let's go to Chris Cuomo.
Chris, where are you right now and what are you seeing?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": We're in times square here. This is the place that hey kind of blocked off and where they thought protesters would be, Anderson. But what happens was they had a couple hundred here. They left. They tried to go down to the tree lighting as tonight in Rockefeller center. They were pushed away by police there. They want to keep that a very event-friendly situation. They moved down towards Union Square, circled back. We just had about 500 protesters walk west down 44th street. Here in Times Square filled with people here for the holidays. And they had about 50 riot police.
The New York police department has a task force for crowd control. They have 50 guys, almost all of them guys in riot gear ready to push them out because they blocked traffic. Now, that exceeds the lawful protest rights that are outlined by the city here. They are chanting can't breathe. They are chanting hands up, don't shoot. They're chanting, New York says no.
So the situation right now is, what will the officers do, Anderson, to create a flow of traffic here again which is the busiest Christmas spot in Manhattan?
COOPER: All right, Chris, I appreciate. We will continue to check in with you over the two hours that we're on the air.
Alexander Field is also at the renowned Union Square.
Alexandra, exactly where are you and what do see around you?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we are down in Union Square where a couple hundred people have joined in the protests right now. You might be able to hear them chanting (INAUDIBLE). This is what they have been saying for a little while.
This is one of the protests that has comes out somewhat organically. There was significant media traffic earlier today so they are recruiting people to come down here. And certainly, you can see the crowd that some people brought signs that they were prepared to be here. But we've been here since the beginning of this. They start around 7:00 and what you actually got at the start was just a group of people, about a dozen people standing with their hands up. They were completely silent for a good 15 minutes. And because we're in a high traffic area of New York City, people sort of coming out and they suddenly walk down the street and join in. Putting their hands up and then eventually joining in these chants we've heard "I can't breathe" over and over again. Hands up, don't shoot from the things that we heard over and over again in Ferguson.
I want to give you a little bit of a perspective of the police situation is down here. You've got the crowd being kept on the sidewalk and you do have a number of officers who are out here. They've been here basically since the beginning, actually even before the protesters arrived. We saw the police cries down here. These guys were ready for a crowd to come. They had anticipated no confrontations here. you just have these police sort of lined up on one side, the demonstrators on the other side. And all this as demonstrators just sort of this repeated for us these chants. But other than that, Anderson, no conflict.
COOPER: And Alexandra, is it clear where this demonstration goes next?
FIELD: At this point it isn't. There was some discussion about the fact that people might, actually, starting to move right now. There was some discussion that people would sort of proceed uptown and we are seeing them shift for the first time. They've been down here for more than an hour now. They are starting to march, not entirely clear where they're going to go. But you can see the police are staying in place there just on the street here. (INAUDIBLE) at this point is to stay on the sidewalk, not to get into the street where the cars are. They've also sort of cordoned off part of the street where the police cruisers and caravans here. But certainly, you can see the crowd starting to move here, has grown
in the last hour. A few hundred probably at its largest point. More people coming down here bringing down signs. And they are not just talking about Eric Garner. Obviously, that's what's prompted this demonstration today, but certainly they're talking about Michael Brown. They're talking about they feel as the excessive use of force.
This is a case where people are just feeling that moment where they think they need to come out here. They want to be heard. And this is that opportunity to speak up. They're in Staten Island earlier today. It was the same thing. People want to come forward and speak.
This is a case that's difficult for a lot of people to understand. A lot of people expressing their outrage and their fury the fact there wasn't an indictment of Eric Garner. And what really adds to this confusion, Anderson, is that these people out here, a lot of these people who are marching, they saw that video of Eric Garner taken out on the sidewalk. They know he died but they don't know the details of what the grand jury discussed because here in New York state, we know the grand jury is governed by state laws. State laws are different state to state and in this case. And in this case, the district attorney doesn't release the details of the evidence that's presented to a grand jury. So a lot of people here are venting their frustration because they simply can't understand why a grand jury chose not to indict officer Pantaleo.
COOPER: The crowd that you are wit in Union Square, and for those who are not from New York, Union Square in downtown in the island of Manhattan, is that different than the crowd that we just saw a relatively short time ago moving up through Columbus circle in New York which is around 58th street to 60th street which we are seeing on our screen right now? So are there multiple demonstrations going on or is this one large crowd?
FIELD: No, absolutely. Totally different demonstrations going on all around the city. You saw the demonstration in Times Square. There were people headed to a Rockefeller center where that tree lightning is going on. You point out the demonstration in Columbus circle.
This is entirely different. We're, you know, a couple miles south of Columbus circle where these people have gathered. Some of these demonstrations seem somewhat linked in the sense that there was this social media traffic recruiting people to come out and yes, suggesting different places they could go to and different areas of the city they might march between. But again, Anderson, it really just have to highlight the point that we've seen down here is that this really is one of those protests where certainly there are people didn't plan to demonstrate. But there were also a lot of people it seems who just out -- were out here on a busy evening around rush hour 7:00 getting out of the subway coming home from work. They saw this and people just looked at it for a while and then joined in the crowd. They put their hands up or began to chant or they took a silent moment to just sort of appreciate or respect or show solidarity for what's going on here.
But you know, these are different scenes you see across the city right now. A lot of people are just sharing the similar feeling and sentiment and want to express it. And you know, right now, they're doing it in a peaceful way. They are doing it a way that police are able to respect. Because they're really just out here walking, and marching, and turn their signs, and chanting. They're well within their right to do.
COOPER: Alexander Field, appreciate that reporting.
As I said, we are going to monitor these protests throughout the hour. We are anticipating here from the family of Mr. Garner any moment. We will bring that to you live.
Also, I want to bring right now our legal analyst in. Former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin, Sunny Hostin and criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos.
Sunny, when you heard that the grand jury was choosing not move forward with the indictment, what did you think?
SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I immediately thought of Ferguson and I was stunned, quite frankly. As a native New Yorker, I just didn't think that this would happen in New York. I am still stunned.
COOPER: Although, this happened in New York many times in the past.
HOSTIN: It has but I just thought for some reason that it would be different now given the Zimmerman case, given the Jordan Davis case, given Ferguson that just happened nine days ago. Quite frankly, I thought that the tenor and the tone had changed in New York. And so, that is what was surprising to me and it was also surprising having seen the video where you see an unarmed person. You see someone that is not aggressive. You see someone, quite frankly, a police officer use a chokehold which has been banned practice. You have a medical examiner who ruled it a homicide. We see it on video. We see someone die on video and no indictment. It is just -- I'm still stunned.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, were you surprised?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I usually play like the reasonable guy here and try to see both sides. But I mean, this sure looks like it stinks. And I got to tell you, you know, the crime for which Eric Garner was arrested may be the single least significant crime in the state of New York.
COOPER: So in the loose -- allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
TOOBIN: Yes. I mean, selling loose cigarettes, not pot, cigarettes and not paying taxes. Now, it's sort of amazing it's even illegal at all. But you look at the confrontation and you look at what Eric Garner is saying and you can tell he's a New Yorker. He's talking the way we talk in New York. He says just leave me alone. What are you doing here? Why are you bothering me? And then they just attack this guy. And then he dies. And no one gets prosecuted?
HOSTIN: And it's all on video.
TOOBIN: That's right. I mean, there's nobody -- one word against another.
COOPER: Well, the thing is the representative from the police organization who represents the police officer involved in this said had he not resisted, this never would have happened.
TOOBIN: It is far from clear to me watching that video that he resisted. I mean, he's a big guy. He was unhappy to be arrested. You know, part of the rules of police work is most people in the United States don't welcome being arrested. They, you know, they are unhappy to be arrested.
COOPER: Particularly with somebody has their hands behind your neck or around the neck.
TOOBIN: That's right. But this was not an aggressive fighting of the police officer. Mostly what you hear him say over and over again is, he can't breathe. That to me is not resisting arrest. That's dying. And that --
COOPER: The police, though, saying, and I'm just wanting to present what they're saying here is that when the officer tried to put his hands behind his back in order to handcuff him, he resisted and broke away with his hands and that's then when the officer moved around his neck.
TOOBIN: That's right. And another thing the police are saying is that given his, the fact that he was overweight and given the fact that he had asthma, he had preexisting conditions that made a normal arrest a fatal event. That's a big part of this.
COOPER: And the coroner did say in fact, that the asthma, his weight contributed, but they ruled it a homicide.
HOSTIN: By chokehold. Homicide by chokehold.
COOPER: A chokehold and chest compression with the officer being on his back with him face down on the ground.
TOOBIN: That's what they said. And you think about the incredibly tiny crime that was being investigated here and you see a swarm of cops on this guy. Why? Why?
HOSTIN: It's the very definition of excessive force. I mean, you know, are our eyes deceiving us? Are my eyes lying to me? I have been such a proponent, Anderson, of body cameras on police officers, because I think that body cameras or I thought would protect not only citizens but protect police officers. But here, we have the video and still no indictment. I don't know what the answer is now.
COOPER: Mark Geragos?
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: And you know, it's just fascinating listening to these former prosecutors. I asked either one of these former prosecutors, have you ever gone in front of a grand jury, in all the times, if they were federal where they do it a lot more, almost always, you never do a prelim in federal court and not gotten a grand jury indictment?
HOSTIN: Never because you'd become the laughing stock of your office (INAUDIBLE).
GERAGOS: One thing against somebody who is in proper. I mean, it is unheard of. And here, you got it twice in two high profile cases involving police officers. And it is what I have sent we've had this discussion so many times. The cops get a benefit that nobody else gets. Anybody else, you have a dead body, you arrest first, you ask questions maybe, you have a million-dollar bail, then you go to a preliminary hearing, it is in the public. You don't get the benefit of a prosecutor becoming like McCulloch in the defense lawyer in front of a grand jury.
This whole system has turned the grand jury on its head. You see, originally, the grand jury was here as a bull work against excessive government interference. It slowly evolved. And for the last 100 years, the grand jury is nothing but a rubber stamp for the prosecution. It is a way to just present a bare bones case, get them to indict and then you don't mess around with the defense lawyers.
Now what you see happened twice in ten days is a prosecutor go in and I guarantee you, this D.A. or this prosecutor, he wasn't asking for an indictment. If he was asking for an indictment, he would have gotten an indictment.
COOPER: So, you are saying, based on the prosecutors, and Jeff, what do you think? Is this true that prosecutors using grand juries in the case where police are involved because they don't want to --
TOOBIN: It sure seems that way.
COOPER: -- going against the police officers on a regular basis and they sort of throw it up and leave it to the grand jury.
TOOBIN: Yes, I think that's certainly a reasonable interpretation of what went on here. Also remember, this is Staten Island. A lot of people in, you know, outside of New York, which is of course most people don't know the politics of New York. Staten island is the smallest, the whitest and the most conservative of the five boroughs of New York. And Dan Donovan who is the, he doesn't answers to the city at-large. He answers only to the voters of Staten Island. So he is not someone who is looking to ingratiate himself with the civil rights leadership with the Al Sharptons of world. He has a conservative electorate who, including many cops who live in Staten Island. So of all the boroughs, it is very fortunate for the cops here that this took place in Staten Island.
COOPER: Twenty-two people on the grand jury, the ratio make up 14 white, nine -- well, my math is terrible, non-white African-American and Hispanic.
TOOBIN: More diverse, frankly, than I would have expected given the ratio.
(CROSSTALK) GERAGOS: You still have to get that majority.
COOPER: Let's listen in -- I'm sorry, Eric Garner's widow is speaking. Let's listen.
ESAW GARNER, ERIC GARNER'S WIDOW: He shouldn't be killed in that way. He shouldn't have been killed in any way. He should be here celebrating Christmas and thanksgiving and everything else with his children and grandchildren and he can't. Why? Because a cop did wrong. Somebody that get paid to do right did wrong and he's not held accountable for it. But my husband's death will not be in vain. As long as I have a breath in my body, I will fight the fight to the end. Thank you.
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR, POLITICS NATION: May we hear from the mother of Eric Garner, Ms. Gwen Carr?
GWEN CARR, ERIC GARNER'S MOTHER: Good evening, everyone.
Given honor to God who is first in my life. But I am here, I am truly disappointed in the grand jury's decision this evening. I don't know what video they were looking at. Evidently, it wasn't the same one the rest of the world was looking at. How could we put our trust in the justice system when they failed us like this? Then it not only failed me, they failed but many of us. And if we don't take care of this, they may fail you in the future.
We got to make this right. And we're so happy that the federal government is now talking about taking over and investigating? We asked them twice before but now they see how important it is for them to come in and take this case and as well as the other cases, the Brown case.
And I think national action network, Reverend Sharpton, Reverend Daughtry. My goodness, this is just so emotional for me. We thank Reverend Kooerston (ph) for standing with us. Because we need all of your support. We need your support and we need peace. But we need peace throughout the support.
You know, we want you to rally but rally in peace. Make a statement, but make it in peace. Do what you have to but do it in peace. OK? But I thank every inch in every one of you for coming out tonight to show support and love for the family and for my son, which I will never see again. This thing is just breaking my heart and just pulling me apart. But thank you. Thank you so much.
SHARPTON: Again, the leadership in the morning and therefore, we will plan a march and what we will do.
COOPER: And we want to get some quick reaction from our panel.
You know, Jeff, obviously, you know, hearing from the wife of Mr. Garner, the mother of Mr. Garner, it's understandable that they are shocked by this. TOOBIN: Yes, and they're not alone. And you know, the question
that's certainly is on my mind and I suspect is on a lot of people's minds, is that what does a cop have to do in this country to get indicted?
GERAGOS: Well, my question is I'm not going to say that I know the ins and outs of this, but if this is just a tax -- a cigarette tax violation, why is that an arrestable offense? And you have the right to resist an illegal arrest. And so, if the arrest was illegal, he had the right and here, it wasn't even a resistance.
COOPER: It's also interesting when you watch the video and one with some edits in it, but the guy who was videotaping it, who by the way is indicted on another charge. The guy videotaping has been indicted on a weapons charge in an unrelated incident, he's constantly being told to move back, to go home. It's almost at times, you watching that and seems like some of the officers are as concerned about or more concerned the videotaping of the incident than the actual incident itself.
HOSTIN: And we've seen that often, haven't we?
TOOBIN: You know what, I know. I worked with cops. I love cops. Most cops are great. There are cops I assure you who are at that event who thought, what the hell is going on here? Why are we doing this? Why are we jumping this guy over non-sense? Over a ridiculous.
COOPER: It did seem like there was some history between one of the officers because Mr. garner keeps saying, you're constantly harassing me. You do this all the time. Just leave me alone.
HOSTIN: And he been arrested many times. And so, I suspect that they did know him. But again, did it take six officers to arrest him for what I believe is probably a fineable offense? And also, when you look at the video tape, this officer took him from behind. He had his hands up and the officer choked him from behind. How could you resist arrest in that way?
COOPER: We've got to get to a quick break. Sunny, Jeff, Mark thanks very much.
As always, make sure you set your DVR so you can watch 360 whenever up you want. We are going to have much more coverage of the protests here in New York in the two hours ahead that we are on the air. Tonight, we are on until 10:00 tonight. We are going to talk to the family of Eric Garner any moment.
Also next, director, activist, documentary filmmaker and New Yorker Spike Lee joins us ahead.
COOPER: Protesters are out tonight in Manhattan in a number of areas from Time Square, some tried to get to Rockefeller center. There have been in Union Square, all the way up to Harlem, out in Staten Island where Eric Garner died. And a grand jury declined to indict the police officer who put him in a chokehold.
Filmmaker Spike Lee has been much of his career making movies about race and poverty, focusing his cameras and script on stories he thinks are being ignored. After the death of Eric Garner and Michael Brown this past summer, Lee put up memorials for both of them outside of his Brooklyn office. He hasn't taken the banners down. Spike Lee joins me tonight.
When you heard the news about the grand jury, I'm wondering, what through your mind?
SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: I said, no. In fact this morning, I bought some more flowers for the in front of the murals. And I was thinking that this has happened in Ferguson. So it is twice in nine days. And Ferguson, OK. He say, she say. This one, we have -- and the guy was here before. It was not a three second tape. It ran in order. I have a copy of it. It's 14 minutes. It's 14 minutes. And this is evidence. If you have eyes, you see what happens. And I thought about, wait a minute. Simi valley, did Rodney King beat it? They got off too. So I was very pleased that attorney general Eric Holder and the feds were stepping in.
COOPER: Do you think that will make a difference?
COOPER: You do?
LEE: They have to made a difference in overturning the Simi valley.
COOPER: Because a lot of times predict like in the Michael Brown case, the federal government getting involved, the federal government case is a much harder case. A civil rights violation is a lot harder case to bring the best chance of an indictment if one wants an indictment, you know, is the city is mistake.
LEE: Yes. But what they didn't have in Ferguson is we have this 14 minute tape by Ramsey. I mean, it says deadly news images. It's Ramsey (INAUDIBLE) who gave the copy. He's the one that did it. So I think --
COOPER: And yet, the grand jury -- I mean, everybody is --
LEE: I don't know what they're looking at.
COOPER: Everybody has been saying, you know, in the last couple of weeks, once cameras are on police officers, it's going to be making a big difference. Once you actually see interaction --
LEE: And you think it is. You say, what body cameras make a difference if it doesn't work for Ramsey's shot? I did a film, do the right thing, and the NYPD chokehold rate on him was based upon the chokehold of Michael Stewart. And I hope to God when the whole thing said that we're going to not do this anymore, I thought it would go away. COOPER: Right. Back in the mid-90s is when the NYPD said we're not
going to do the chokehold. We haven't taught -- they said back in 1993, I was reading an article, they said we haven't taught the chokehold in ten years to our police cadets. But we are not going to do any more except if the life of the officer is absolutely threatened. But no chokeholds, no movements where the windpipe is constricted.
LEE: It is -- I feel horrible. Of course, nothing compares to the families of Ferguson and Staten Island.
COOPER: To you --
LEE: But people are in rage, people have losing faith of the -- in the justice system because again, we see with our own eyes.
COOPER: Do you think things have gotten better? Because I mean I grew up in New York City. I remember a case in the '80s, a young African-American man was playing basketball. His basketball accidentally got thrown on to a police car, ended up he got killed in a chokehold by the police officer. The police officer went before a judge and wasn't found guilty. I mean, do you think things have changed for the better?
LEE: Well, I keep hoping. But, you know, hope's not working. Hope's not a part of the - so - has been a part of grand jury the last nine days in Ferguson and Staten Island.
COOPER: Do you have faith in the system? Do you think ...
LEE: I have faith in Eric Holder. I have faith in the attorney general, and I think justice will, in this case at least, because we have - I mean this evidence. There's a 14 minute tape by Eric Garner's friend who spent a lot of that day with him. Ramsey Orta. I don't know how, what the grand jury was looking at that they cannot bring a charge.
COOPER: When you see these protesters out and we are showing you one side of the screens, some of the protest going in the city, does that inspire you?
LEE: Oh, yes. I was telling you earlier, last Tuesday night, I'm calling my wife Tanya watching you, CNN, and you had the helicopter shots. So, they're blocking FDR. They turn it to you for a second - you go to Times Square. I said, Tanya, I'm going up there. So, I got on my bike.
COOPER: You've got ...
LEE: I've got on my bike. I'm at the 49TH and 7, and stay with them like two or three hours to get ...
LEE: And for me, to see --
COOPER: Were people like, is that Spike Lee on a bicycle?
LEE: It wasn't about that, it wasn't about that, though. But you have to see - I told you before, it was diverse New Yorkers. Black, white, brown, Asian. All chanting "Black Lives Matter."
COOPER: And a lot of young people.
LEE: And a lot of young people. You know, young people in this generation gets a bad rap. They are the ones - I really - You, watching you, inspired me to get out there with these young - young, young women and - young women and men. And be a part of this.
COOPER: Spike Lee, it's always good to get to talk to you. And I really appreciate you taking the time.
LEE: Well, I'm going out there tonight. I got my camera, so I'm going to ...
COOPER: You are going to go to ...
COOPER: And join the protest?
LEE: I'm trying to catch with them.
COOPER: You know, if you can stick around for just a few minutes, we're about to talk to the family of Mr. Garner and if you can listen that, and maybe talk a little bit right after that.
COOPER: We are going to wait to speak to Eric Garner's family members any moment now. We are going to get - also, later, the incident has proved that banning chokeholds does not necessarily stop police officers from using chokeholds. We're going to dig deeper into that. We are going to take a short break. The family of Eric Garner is coming up next.
COOPER: Hey, welcome back. Protests here in New York. If you're just joining us after grand jury declines to indict the police officer implicated in Eric Garner's death. Now, as you know, Mr. Garner spent the last minutes of his life in a chokehold face down on Bay Street in Thompkinsville section of Staten Island, one of New York's five boroughs. He was brought down in front of a grocery store, we here allegedly have been illegally selling loose cigarettes. He was, as we reported, unarmed.
Tonight, Joe Johns is outside of the store where some protesters gathered. Candles have been lit as well. Joe joins me now. What's the scene like, Joe? JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, as far as people go,
it's sort of died down over the past hour or so. There's a makeshift memorial right over there with candles, with some signs, some flowers. It's been a very non-violent and peaceful scene out here throughout the evening. I think you can say people have been exasperated. There's been a certain amount of anger expressed. A certain amount of surprise that there was not an indictment on any charge at all, especially given the fact that there was video that was pretty compelling. The father of Eric Garner came out here for a while when there was a larger crowd. He grabbed the microphone and talked to people. And really, he didn't have that much to say, except he wanted to tell the people here and anybody who was listening that there should be no violence. That they should keep it peaceful because as he put it, he didn't want any other family going through what the Garner family has gone through since July when it all happened right out here in the street in Staten Island.
So I talked to people in the street. There was one man, an African- American man with a suit and tie who expressed a lot of frustration, a lot of emotion about the fact that no matter how you dress or who you are, if you're African-American, there's always a danger of stop and frisk and even worse. And this, of course, is seen as an example of that, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Joe Johns, I appreciate it. In Staten Island tonight. There's a lot going on in different places throughout the city. You are seeing some of the images from earlier this evening. Joining us now is the attorney for the family of Mr. Garner. We haven't expected to actually, talk to the family, apparently, they are now unavailable. The attorney, Jonathan Moore, is joining us. Mr. Moore, thanks for being here. One of the things we kept hearing in reference to death of Michael Brown was if there only had been a video recording of what happened, perhaps, there might have been a different outcome. What happened to Eric Garner was on video. Why do you think that wasn't enough for the grand jury?
JONATHAN MOORE, GARNER FAMILY ATTORNEY: Well, I don't know what was in the minds of the grand jury, but it is surprising to me that with the video evidence and the medical examiner's report which had Eric Garner dying from the combination of neck and chest compression. That - and if you look at the video, and look at the rough treatment that Mr. Garner was being subjected to - not just by one, but several officers, it defies belief that there wasn't an indictment in this case on something. Even the smallest charge of assault or reckless endangerment, or going up to criminally negligent homicide up to second-degree murder. It defies belief that there was no indictment here on one of those charges.
COOPER: The reason police said that they were talking to Mr. Garner in the first place is they said he was selling loose cigarettes. Is that even to your knowledge an arrestable offense? Is that something that would normally just be ticketed or would somebody normally be arrested for that?
MOORE: Well, you know, I think it's probably a summonsable (ph) offense. I think you can get a summons. I don't think - he was being - they wanted him because they had a suspicion that he was selling loosies. There was nothing on him that would have indicated that he was doing it. So, it's even less of a quality life offense, if you will, than what they say it was. So ...
COOPER: And ...
MOORE: But in any event, nobody should die for this. You know?
COOPER: To your knowledge, in the video, Mr. Garner seems to be indicating that there's some kind of a history with one of the officers. He says the officer has harassed him in the past or bothered him in the past. Do you know anything about the nature of that history?
MOORE: I don't know specifically the nature of that history. I know that generally, he was being harassed in this way over a number of months about what he was doing out there and you can say what you will about whether he should have been selling loose cigarettes. Eric Garner was a family man. He was married for 27 years. He had five children he supported. He had grandchildren. This is how he made his living. And, you know, there's a lot of people who live in the underground economy because of a lot of conditions that exist in our society. And I just keep coming back to the point that he didn't deserve to die for whatever he was doing.
MOORE: And then the thing is you talk about in Michael Brown case that there was -- they didn't really know if his hands were up. If you watch the video, Eric Garner's hands were up. He's saying - my hands are up. And it's unconscionable that there was no indictment here.
COOPER: The federal investigation now that's been announced by Eric Holder tonight, what do you hope to come out of that? I mean because a lot of people often say that the bar for a federal charge is often higher. That the best case for an indictment, if you want an indictment, is at the state or the local level.
MOORE: Well, that's generally true. I think if you have an independent prosecutor who's honestly looking at the evidence, I think for whatever reason, this prosecutor didn't do that. It's not unprecedented that the federal government would step in these cases where the state has decided not to prosecute or the prosecution has led to an acquittal. It's happened in the New York before with the Baez case and Officer Livoti who was - who they didn't charge state- wise, was charged for assault and convicted under a federal law. Rodney King case is another example. The Abner Louima case is another example. So, it's, you know, it's a well-established procedure. And what we're looking for is an independent review of the evidence.
COOPER: Do you believe ...
MOORE: Let me tell you why I don't think there was an independent review of the evidence.
COOPER: OK, go ahead.
MOORE: If I may, If I may, Anderson, I don't - I'm sorry if I'm questioning about this.
COOPER: No, no, go ahead.
MOORE: We are very upset about what happened here. It became clear today to me for the first time that all the officers who were present other than Pantaleo were given immunity for their testimony which means they could never have been prosecuted criminally for what happened. So that the focus was solely on Pantaleo. And I don't think that was a mistake. I think that was deliberate because they wanted to be able to say, this is all about a chokehold. When in fact, it's not just about a chokehold. It's about a chokehold and compression on the chest that caused his death. That's what the medical examiner said. And all of those officers should have been targets of the grand jury, not just Pantaleo. And they're all going home tonight to their family. They all have their job. Their all have, you know, their lives ahead of them. And Eric Garner does not.
COOPER: Right. Because I mean as you say, rightfully, this is often called the chokehold death. But according to the medical examiner, it was the chokehold as well as the compressions on Mr. Garner's back while he was laying face down with a number of officers basically sitting on his back. And that is what led to his death.
MOORE: Correct. Correct. And, you know, I called Benjamin Crump today after he heard that the grand jury had decided not to indict and you obviously know who he is.
COOPER: Yeah, the attorney for Michael Brown.
MOORE: Yeah, attorney for Michael Brown. And I said to him, I said to him then, you know, they brought back a no true bill on this case. And he said to me, he said what? They have a video. How could they do that? And I think that's everybody's reaction here. That it's just hard to believe that this jury could have done what they did. And I just think that it had to have been directed by the district attorneys who are working on the case.
COOPER: Mr. Moore, I appreciate you being on tonight. Thank you very much. We are going to dig deeper into police tactics right after this as protests continue across in the city of New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Eric Garner ....
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up!
CROWD: Don't shoot!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands up!
CROWD: Don't shoot!
COOPER: In the protest earlier this evening in New York, protest at a Grand Central Terminal here in New York City, protesters lie on the ground chanting I can't breathe, which is what Mr. Garner said repeatedly before he died. This case has raised a lot of questions about police policy and the tactics they are and are not allowed to use when trying to subdue someone. Joining me now fire arms and homeland security expert David Katz, formerly the DEA and a CEO of global security group and former NYPD officer Dan Bongino, also a former Secret Service agent.
David, I've heard that - you don't actually believe that this was a choke hold, is that correct?
DAVID KATZ, CEO, GLOBAL SECURITY GROUP: Well, no there is a distinction we made by choke hold and what's called a carotid restraint. So many police departments' federal agencies, my former agency, Eric Holder should know this, that carotid restraints are legitimate and very safe way of subduing somebody. When you choke somebody, you're putting pressure on the windpipe, that's banned by every agency unless deadly force is warranted, and ...
COOPER: Right. But it seems like in this case, you are saying this was a carotid restraint?
KATZ: No, I think ....
COOPER: Because the medical examiner said very completely clearly, that it was the neck compression as well as the back compression.
KATZ: Yeah, I think there is - it looks like while he's speaking, so if he was really being choked that you wouldn't hear him, you couldn't say, I can't breathe.
COOPER: If you really can't breathe ...
KATZ: If you really can't breathe. What was he - Was he experiencing a constrictire, a lessening of his airway? Absolutely? I believe that.
COOPER: Do you think the police handled this appropriately?
KATZ: You know, it's always Monday morning quarterbacking. Once you are making an arrest, you have - you have the legal right to use whatever force is necessary and appropriate to take the person into the custody. I've heard some former guests saying, well, there was six on one. This is not a fair fight. You are coming - If you come with me peacefully with no resistance, you are not going to have - I'm not going to put my hands on you, except to put handcuffs on. In this case on a larger gentleman, perhaps he was intimidating to the police officer, I don't know. I wasn't there. Other ways to handle it? Sure. It could have done a lot of different things, but I'm here, I am months and months later, saying well what would I have done? COOPER: Dan, you're a former NYPD, you are a police officer who said, the tactics we see the officers are using, particularly what appears to be the choke hold or strong arm hold, whatever you want to call it, were they justified in your opinion?
DAN BONGINO, FORMER NYPD OFFICER: You know, Anderson, he brings up a very important point, David. This is not a distinction without a difference that tracheal choke versus the carotid choke versus the headlock. It's not just the semantic game. They all have three very different outcomes. I bring this up for a reason. If it was a tracheal choke, which she is correct, is banned by most police departments, which would completely cut off any air by compressing the windpipe. That's - because that's deadly force. A carotid choke which stops blood flow temporarily would cause temporarily incapacitation on conscious. I'll bring that up, because what it looks like if you watch the video in the beginning and if you watch it closely, it doesn't look like that's what he's doing. It looks like the officer is trying a takedown, trying to take him down, that unquestionably turns into a choke on the ground. So, I don't know if that played into the grand jury's decision. But trying to take him down from behind is justified, but the choke, although legal, is not an administrative policy the NYPD can do.
COOPER: Right. I mean Dan, correct me if I'm wrong, but the NYPD outlaw basically or stopped training in any and told the police officers not to use any hold that restricted the windpipe back in the mid '90s.
BONGINO: Right. Anderson, the golden rule of the NYPD when I was there was basically stay away from the neck. It's just - it's not going to end well. They try to implement that, but keep in mind, it's not banned under all circumstances either. I've heard that - for a couple of times as well. If you are in a deadly force scenario which this wasn't, but if they were going for the gun and that's all you had to stop the person to choke, then you could use it, but that wasn't in this case.
COOPER: Right. Very clearly, this was a quality of life crime, if there was a crime at all, that's alleged to have taken place. Could not they have just summoned the guy?
KATZ: I don't know why they decided to arrest rather than summons. I don't know. And I'm sure the grand jury does. But, you know, to the point of why the NYPD banned chokeholds, they taught years ago, they taught approach from behind, put your (INAUDIBLE) across the windpipe and pull. That is absolutely forbidden and banned. The carotid restrain, though, it's properly applied. Instead of just - instead of just saying, well, listen, you can't go for the windpipe. The carotid restraint, DEA does it, every federal agency does it, you know, it's been used in judo since it became a sport in the 1880s. Literally ...
COOPER: But putting your arm around something neck, which is what - you know, whether it was trying to take the guy down or not.
COOPER: That's not a carotid restraint.
KATZ: No, what it looks like, he looks like he was going for a headlock or takedown and as he rolled over, I think he got too much of his arm across the windpipe. There's zero chance that this officer wanted to choke Mr. Garner to death. Zero. I think the way they landed, I think, unfortunately, he got - he had pressure on his windpipe. That's - I mean what a tragic ...
KATZ: He's asthmatic. So, once the pressure goes on the chest, now you have the situation it's doubly compounded. So, it's an awful circumstance.
COOPER: David Katz, I appreciate you being on. Dan Bongino as well. As we reported, the medical examiner ruled Mr. Garner's death a homicide caused by compression of his chest and neck and "prone positioning during physical restraint by police." And by the way, this is the West Side highway, I'm told. Is that correct, Jonathan?
Yeah, this is the West side highway right now. There is a number of protests that seem to be moving around the city. Reported there trying to make contact on that. The medical examiner's report the list of Mr. Garner's asthma, obesity, high blood pressure, also as contributing factors in his death, though the cause of death itself was ruled a homicide. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now. So, can you take us through exactly what the medical examiner described as the cause of death here for Mr. Garner?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they were pretty succinct in this. As you mentioned, they called this a homicide. There's several different manners of deaths they could have chosen from. We can show you a list of some of them, but everything from an accident, a suicide. There's an undetermined sort of - there's natural causes. In this case, they said it was a homicide, so that's a very important point as you might imagine, but also, this notion that it was a choke hold that led to his death in combination with pressure on his chest from being in the prone position. Being on his chest and having pressure applied there. So, again, this was - they didn't mince words when they were sort of describing this and describing the manner of death here a homicide.
COOPER: And the contributing factors, asthma, obesity, cardiovascular disease. What do you make of that? Because clearly with his weight, the weight of other people on his back and again, the compression on his neck.
GUPTA: You know, I wouldn't read too much into the contributing factors. When you look at death certificates, they often have sort of some of the other conditions the person may have had. But again, the primary cause of death, the underlying cause of death here, specifically, homicide due to the reasons that we just talked about. You know, the question seems to be almost and I was trying to think about how to present this, but this idea that if he did not have obesity and he did not have asthma these underlying conditions, would he still be alive? And the answer is, we don't know. I mean we can't know that. But the answer is, if he had not had a choke hold placed on him and put down in the prone position with pressure on his chest, would he still be alive? And the answer is yes. And that's sort of the bottom line. So, regardless of what these other secondary conditions or contributory conditions are, the choke hold was the primary driver.
GUPTA: Patients come to hospitals all the time, Anderson. If they've been in a car accident, for example. They have a head injury and they die a day later because of an infection. What caused the death?
GUPTA: It was the car accident and the head injury. Not the infection.
COOPER: Sanjay Gupta, I appreciate you being on. I want to go to our Deborah Feyerick who's by that protesters on the West Side highway. Deborah, where are you and what are you seeing, what are you reporting?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, so we're on the West Side highway. We are right by the cruise terminals, this is where the ships leave. You can see where it says that. There's a huge crowd here that is blocking the West Side highway. Officials really wanted to try to keep protesters off of the highway. But after they moved from the - after they moved from - near the Rockefeller Center where they were trying to get to the tree lighting, then they decided to come here to the West Side highway.
And Anderson, what we are seeing is across Manhattan, there are different groups that are hitting different areas. This one was able to make it here. When we were pulling up, we've gotten word from an official that, in fact, there were - there was a large group of people as you can see here. About 40 police officers simply ran past us at full speed. We didn't quite know what was going on but they were very serious. We heard that there was a fight that broke out. You can see as we're walking into traffic right now on the West Side highway following these protesters, it's hard to get an accurate number. I think you have aerial shots but there has to be a couple of hundred - there has to be a couple of hundred people who we here for protesting and we do want to point out, they're largely peaceful. We also want to point out that the police presence, while heavy, is in fact keeping the crowd very controlled. They were tanning people in, they were making sure that the protesters were able to move, were able to walk, which is what they're doing now. You can see we're going right through traffic. But again, the groups of protests are just sort of moving, going against traffic and just walking up the highway. We don't even know how far traffic goes, but the police have blocked everything off about 45th street here on the West Side Highway, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Deborah, we'll continue to check in with you.
We are live throughout this entire next hour here on CNN. We are joining to you from New York, 9:00 p.m. just about 9:00 p.m. here in New York where people have taken to the streets. You just saw Deborah Feyerick, their protester taking over parts of the West Side Highway in New York, highway, obviously, one of the main arteries in and around the City. There's also been protesting in Grand Central Station, protesting in Harlem and elsewhere, protesting the grand jury's decision not to indict a New York City police officer in the death of an African American man after the officer put him in a chokehold. The man was ruled to have died from the result of that neck compression and chest compression. Officers were actually kneeling and sitting on him as well.