Eric Garner's mother says George Floyd's death feels like déjà vu

George Floyd was pronounced dead after two Minneapolis police officers restrained him while he repeated, "I can't breathe!"

Posted: May 27, 2020 1:11 PM
Updated: May 27, 2020 1:11 PM

Almost six years ago, Eric Garner took his last breath after being put in a chokehold by a New York City police officer.

His last words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry in the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

This week the same words were used by George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on Floyd's neck. Floyd was arrested Monday after officers responded to a call about an alleged forgery in progress.

Video taken by witnesses shows 46-year-old Floyd pleading that he is in pain and can't breathe for several minutes. Then, his eyes shut and the pleas stop. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Four police officers involved in the incident were fired Tuesday, Minneapolis police said. On Tuesday crowds gathered to protest Floyd's death. Some demonstrators held "I can't breathe" signs and chanted near the scene of the fatal encounter and at a nearby police precinct.

'We want criminal charges'

In an interview with CNN, Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, said what happened is forcing her her relive her son's death.

"It's hard enough we're coming up on the anniversary of my son's death, and now to hear about this young man, it's like déjà vu," said Carr. "It's just like the murder of my son all over again. He was basically the same age as Eric."

Garner died on July 17, 2014, after police attempted to arrest the 43-year-old father of six, who was allegedly selling loose cigarettes illegally on Staten Island. Cellphone video shows an officer maintaining a chokehold as Garner is taken to the ground, crying out, "I can't breathe," over and over again.

The officer who choked Garner, Daniel Pantaleo, was never charged in his death. He was fired in 2019 after being found guilty in a disciplinary trial of using a chokehold on Garner.

Carr said she wants to see a different outcome in Floyd's case.

"We want criminal charges. This officer intended to take this man's life," Carr told CNN. "There's no other way. Look at that video, they outright murdered that young man. No matter what he did, he wasn't doing anything to threaten them, so why would they kill that young man? Just like they killed my son," she said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into Floyd's death, which will focus on whether the Minneapolis Police Department officers involved "willfully deprived (Floyd) of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States," according to a statement from the FBI's Minneapolis Division.

"This can't be swept under the rug," said Carr. "We have to treat this as it is, and not just another news story."

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