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A New York Police Department supervisor called the death of Eric Garner — killed during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes — "not a big deal," according to testimony at the departmental trial of the officer who applied a deadly chokehold.
After Daniel Pantaleo choked Garner from behind before three officers tackled him, Sgt. Dhanan Saminath told Lt. Christopher Brannon in a text message that Garner was “most likely DOA ... he has no pulse,” according to evidence presented Thursday, the Staten Island Advance and New York Times both reported.
That's when Lt. Brannon responded, “Not a big deal, we were effecting a lawful arrest," both newspapers reported. When the text message was read out loud, gasps and cries could be heard from the courtroom audience, the papers said.
Pantaleo, the officer who was seen on video clutching Garner's neck, is facing an administrative trial to determine if he should be fired for using a chokehold on Garner on July 17, 2014.
Garner, 43, who was asthmatic, died not long after repeatedly uttering, "I can't breathe," as a team of officers brought him down outside of 202 Bay St. in the Staten Island borough of New York City.
Garner's death was ruled a homicide but a Staten Island grand jury presented evidence by prosecutors of then-District Attorney Dan Donovan, declined to indict Pantaleo.
The embattled police officer has remained employed by the NYPD. The City of New York reached a $5.9 million civil settlement with Garner's family in 2015.
The choking death of Garner and fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a month later helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality.