Tensions rose on Thursday as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD union chief Patrick Lynch clashed over a New York grand jury's decision not to indict an officer in the death of Eric Garner, with de Blasio saying "the way we do policing needs to change" and Lynch accusing the Democratic mayor of "throwing [police officers] under the bus."
Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), also criticized Garner, who died from an apparent chokehold at the hands of the officer, saying "he made a choice."
"Mr. Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest."'
A grand jury decided Wednesday not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City police officer who placed Eric Garner in the chokehold shortly before his death. The New York City Medical Examiner previously ruled the death a homicide, caused in part by “compression of the neck.”
The incident was captured in a cell phone video, where the 43-year-old father of six can be heard pleading "I can't breathe, I can't breathe" repeatedly. Officials say he died of a heart attack en route to a hospital. Pantaleo has since been stripped of his badge and his gun, and been placed on modified duty.
Mayor de Blasio addressed the grand jury decision in a lengthy news conference Wednesday, mentioning his own biracial son and how the issue of race and policing tactics was "profoundly personal" to him. "I've had to worry, over the years, Chirlane's had to worry -- was Dante safe each night? There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night -- is my child safe?" The mayor also described Garner as "a father, a husband, a son, a good man -- a man who should be with us, and isn't."
On Thursday, de Blasio announced that all NYPD officer would be re-trained in the wake of Garner's death, saying "the way we do policing needs to change."
Lynch slammed the mayor in response Thursday, turning the blame on Garner. The PBA president said in a press conference that he supported the grand jury's decisions, and pointed his finger at Garner for what he said was "not a good choice."
"We feel badly that there was a loss of life, but unfortunately Mr. Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest," Lynch said. "He's been arrested before, he knew that he'd go to the station house, and get a desk appearance ticket, and be out by the end of the day. But unfortunately the choice was not a good choice, and unfortunately we all live with the tragedy of that day. "
"You cannot resist arrest. Because resisting arrest leads to confrontation. Confrontation leads to tragedy," Lynch added.
The union chief also praised the officer who held Garner in a chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo. "What's not being told is what kind of man and police officer he is," Lynch said. "He's a mature police officer who is motivated by serving the community. He literally is an Eagle Scout."