The families of Eric Garner, Delrawn Small, and Saheed Vasell – all fathers who missed Father’s Day with their families – and their community supporters have called for Mayor de Blasio to take immediate action to hold the officers who killed them accountable.
All of the families are being denied accountability by the de Blasio administration, with the NYPD failing to take actions to discipline and fire the officers responsible and withholding vital information from the families and public.
The four-year mark of Eric Garner’s killing by is just weeks away and New York Police Department (NYPD) officer Daniel Pantaleo, the other officers who used force against Garner, and officers who lied on the official police report about that use of force have not faced any discipline from the NYPD.
Garner was killed on Staten Island after being placed in a NYPD-banned chokehold by Officer Pantaleo while Garner pleaded “I can’t breathe” at least eleven times and other officers joined in using excessive force against him or did nothing to stop it.
The de Blasio administration has claimed that it is waiting for the Trump administration DOJ to act on Pantaleo’s case, but local jurisdictions and departments are not required to delay disciplinary processes for the Justice Department and often do not.
The South Carolina police officer who killed Walter Scott was fired by his police department before the federal government charged him with civil rights violations. The last time an NYPD officer was convicted by the Justice Department for violations in the killing of a civilian was after the 1994 chokehold killing of Anthony Baez by Officer Francis Livoti.
The NYPD conducted a disciplinary trial and fired Livoti before the DOJ acted, and the NYPD trial contributed to the DOJ prosecution. Additionally, the de Blasio administration has also taken no action against the other officers who used force or lied on initial reports to cover up the use of force, who have not been identified as targets of the federal investigation.
“It’s been nearly four years since my son Eric Garner was murdered by the NYPD and Mayor de Blasio has done nothing to hold the many officers responsible accountable,” said Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner. “This is the fourth Father's Day that my son couldn’t spend with his family.... and yet Officer Daniel Pantaleo and the other officers who killed my son and engaged in misconduct are receiving higher taxpayer-funded salaries today than when my son was killed. Mayor de Blasio has done nothing about police accountability in this city - he just keeps making it worse by making the police less transparency by misusing state law 50-a."
She added: "The mayor’s complete failure to ensure the NYPD officers who killed my son and so many others accountable will be his lasting legacy on policing. It shouldn’t take four or even two years to discipline officers for unjustly killing New Yorkers, and it shouldn’t take more than 10 weeks to release the names of officers who kill. It’s shameful. Pantaleo must be fired immediately, and the other officers who killed Eric and engaged in misconduct to try covering it up – who the mayor has no excuse not to take action against – must be fired immediately.”
Delrawn Small was killed in front of his partner, 4-month-old son, and 14-year-old stepdaughter by NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs almost two years ago on July 4, 2016. It was just one day before Alton Sterling was killed by police in Louisiana and two days before Philando Castile was killed by police in Minnesota.
Video footage showed that Small was walking up to Isaacs’ car on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn when he was immediately shot, contradicting the initial accounts of Isaacs and the NYPD that the officer was being physically assaulted.
After shooting Small, Isaacs left him to bleed to death on the ground, offering no emergency aid and never even communicating that he had shot someone in his 911 call. Isaacs was acquitted of second degree murder in a jury trial that ended in November 2017. Since then, the NYPD has taken no action to hold Isaacs accountable and he has continued to remain in the department receiving annual pay increases and overtime.
Victoria Davis and Victor Dempsey, the sister and brother of Delrawn Small in a joint statement said: “NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs murdered our brother Delrawn Small, a father-figure who basically raised us and a father to his own children, in cold blood almost two years ago. Because of Isaacs, we and others in our family cannot celebrate Father’s Day with Delrawn. What makes it even worse is that Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner O’Neill still haven't taken any action to hold Isaacs accountable by firing him from the NYPD. Instead he is making a higher salary now than when he killed Delrawn. There is no excuse for de Blasio and O’Neill to allow Isaacs to remain on the NYPD, as a threat to New Yorkers’ public safety."
The statement continued: "He has demonstrated that he does not deserve to be a so-called peace officer when he is so trigger happy that he shoots and kills unarmed people who are simply approaching his car, fails to alert 911 to the shooting, gives no aid to the person he shot, and then lies about the incident. Mayor de Blasio must make sure the NYPD holds officers accountable when they brutalize and kill in our communities – NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs must be fired.”
Saheed Vassell was killed by NYPD officers in broad daylight in a hail of at least 10 bullets on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Four out of five officers on the scene reportedly shot at Saheed immediately upon arriving and exiting their cars, similar to how 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police officers in Cleveland.
The officers were members of the militarized counterterrorism Strategic Response Group unit and the hyper-aggressive anti-crime unit. Some witnesses have said officers offered no warning and that there was nothing in Vassell’s hands, despite police accounts that he had a metal pipe at the moment he was shot.
Vassell’s killing was at least the fourth questionable NYPD killing of a Black or Latinx New Yorker in a 9 month-span; Dwayne Jeune, Miguel Richards and Mario Sanabria are the others. Instead of being transparent and releasing information, the NYPD sought to demonize Vassell with a propaganda campaign that included the release of selective information and unethical – and possibly unlawful – leak of information.
Nearly 11 weeks after the killing, the de Blasio administration has refused to release the names, misconduct histories and unedited video of the officers who killed Vassell, despite the fact that other city police departments routinely release the names of officers involved in shootings within 72 hours.
“Saheed should have been able to spend Father’s Day with me, his own son, and our family yesterday, but because NYPD officers murdered him in a hail of bullets in broad daylight, that was not possible,” said Eric Vassell, the father of Saheed Vassell. “What makes it worse is that over two months after NYPD officers murdered our Saheed, Mayor de Blasio is still refusing to provide basic transparency that my family needs to fight for accountability for his killing. It seems like this Mayor and the NYPD are not committed to the truth, they have something to hide. They continue to withhold basic information that other cities across the country routinely release – the names of officers involved in shootings and unedited footage of the officers. How can this be the fairest big city in the nation when we have a mayor and police department that is more committed to hiding information to shield abusive officers than being transparent about police actions and misconduct? Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD must release the names, misconduct histories, and full video footage of the officers involved in killing our son.”
Garner, Small and Vassell are among many New Yorkers who have been killed by the NYPD during the mayoral administration of Bill de Blasio. In all of those cases, the de Blasio administration has failed to ensure officers are held accountable and has withheld information from the public. The lack of transparency impedes the ability to hold officers accountable and the lack of accountability only perpetuates the police killings of civilians. The de Blasio administration has taken the city back nearly two decades on police transparency and has done nothing to address the NYPD’s long-standing failure to hold officers accountable when the brutalize or kill civilians and engage in other misconduct.