While many on the right condemned a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer for placing a black man in a fatal chokehold, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) defended the officer Wednesday and said that if the victim were healthier the whole thing could have been avoided.
NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo was not charged in the death of Eric Garner, 43, whom he put in a chokehold during a July confrontation over Garner’s selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Garner, who suffered from asthma and other health problems, later died in the hospital and the city’s medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
“You had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest. The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible,” King said in an appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this. The police had no reason to know he was in serious condition.”
The confrontation between Pantaleo and Garner was also caught on video that showed Garner repeatedly telling the officer he couldn’t breathe. King said police hear that kind of thing all the time.
“But if you can’t breathe, you can’t talk,” he argued.
The Long Island congressman also dismissed the idea that any racial animus played into Garner’s death.
“I have no doubt, if that were a 350-pound white guy, he would have been treated the same,” King told CNN.
Earlier Wednesday, the congressman tweeted his thanks to the grand jury for not indicting Pantaleo:
Thanks to SI grand jury for doing justice & not yielding to outside pressure. Decision must be respected. Compassion for the Garner family.
— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) December 3, 2014
Watch below via CNN:
This post has been updated.