The widow of the man killed by an NYPD chokehold has been thrust into the spotlight as protests rage over the failure of a grand jury to indict the officer involved. Esaw Garner, Eric Garner’s wife, is the face of a community’s outrage. In the powerful video above, she demands justice for her husband and delivers a passionate rebuke of Officer Daniel Pataleo’s public apology.
Eric Garner was killed on July 17 when a group of officers on Staten Island approached him for illegally selling cigarettes. In an incident that was captured on video, the hulking but unarmed black man was tackled by several officers and placed in a chokehold by Pantaleo, while crying out that he couldn’t breathe. He collapsed and died, with an autopsy proving that the chokehold caused his death.
On December 3, the grand jury ruled that no charges should be brought against Pantaleo.
Here’s what you need to know about Esaw Garner:
1. She Called Her Husband a ‘Nonviolent Giant’
After watching the video of her husband being choked to death, Esaw told the Daily News:
I couldn’t watch the video of my husband being taken down last night. I was too upset. I never slept. I watched it this morning and I got even more upset. They killed him. They choked him and took him down and I could hear him screaming that he couldn’t breathe. It was so hard to watch. He was a nonviolent gentle giant and they killed him.
2. She Said Officer Pantaleo’s Apology ‘Means Absolutely Nothing’
In the hours after the decision not to indict officer Pantaleo was announced, Esaw appeared on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show, Politics Nation. When she tried to speak, Esaw was overcome by tears. Eventually she expressed her anger and her hopes that a federal investigation will result in charges. She added that she struggles to move past the actions that killed her husband, adding that she’s forced to watch his last moments on TV constantly. In conclusion, Esaw said that Pantaleo’s apology “means absolutely nothing.”
CBS New York reported back in July 2014 that Esaw, along with her daughter and her mother-in-law, met with federal prosecutors in seeking justice for Eric.
3. They Raised Six Children Together
The couple met on an area code 900 party line, which were popular among singles in the 1980s. Esaw was pregnant by another many when they met, and Eric agreed to raise the child as his own. They had five more kids and two grandkids together. When they met, in September 1988, he was just about to go to college at Ohio Diesel Tech. But the couple maintained a relationship.
He has two grandkids who love him to death. Every time he walks into the room they scream ‘Pop-Pop and Ganpa.’ He was great to me and his six kids. And a wonderful grandfather.
4. She Called Him ‘Bear,’ He Called Her ‘Pinky’
According to an interview that Esaw gave to the Daily News, Eric called her Pinky and she called him Bear. She last saw him on the morning he was killed when he gave her $400 to get groceries for the house. She added in the interview that the two often had heated arguments, but Eric’s “bark was bigger than his bite.”
5. The Community Has Rallied Around Esaw
The Staten Island Advance reported that in September 2014, on the day that would have been Eric’s 44th birthday, Esaw’s community held a large barbecue in his honor. Esaw told SI Live at the time, “We miss him a lot. Celebrating his birthday without him is not a good feeling.” The event was largely funded by Al Shartpon’s National Action Network.