The swift decision of South Carolina officials to charge a police officer with the murder of an unarmed man after video evidence surfaced has not convinced Esaw Garner that such technology alone can tip the scales of justice in favor of those wrongfully killed.
Her husband Eric Garner's death last year in a confrontation with the NYPD was captured on a bystander's video too, she said. But a Staten Island grand jury brought no charges against the officer who used an apparent chokehold to take down Garner during an arrest on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes.
"He was actually dying, OK? Screaming he could not breathe, OK? And you see it on camera -- and still," she said. "So all that video-camera nonsense? That's exactly what is."
Garner was in midtown Wednesday at the Rev. Al Sharpton's annual National Action Network convention, where activists renewed calls for changes in the wake of the South Carolina police killing of a civilian. She sat flanked by loved ones of other unarmed black men who died in encounters with the police.
Panelists included the parents and fiancee of Sean Bell, killed in 2006 in a hail of bullets in Jamaica, Queens, and the mother of Michael Brown, whose death in Ferguson, Missouri, became a rallying cry for police accountability.
The cops who shot Bell were acquitted in 2008. A grand jury in December declined to indict the Ferguson officer, and a U.S. Justice Department probe released later concluded the evidence showed the officer's use of force in a struggle with Brown was not unreasonable.
Bell's family said they're lobbying Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to sign an executive order directing the appointment of a special prosecutor when a cop kills a civilian.
Asked for comment, a Cuomo spokeswoman said: "The members of this group have endured unspeakable losses and we continue discussions with them and other community activists, criminal justice experts and law enforcement officials throughout this process."
Sharpton said he was prepared to go to South Carolina, where Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager had initially claimed that he shot and killed Walter Scott in self-defense when Scott tried to wrest away the officer's Taser. The video disproved that account and showed Slager firing at the back of the fleeing Scott.
Sharpton said he wants federal standards set for investigating allegations against police.
"There must be national policy, and national law, on policing," Sharpton said. "We can't go from state to state. We've got to have national law."
Esaw Garner wept as she described how the cases have affected her 3-year-old granddaughter's behavior when watching TV.
"She knows to throw her hands up and say, 'Hands up, don't shoot. No justice, no peace.' And she should be reciting her ABCs, not reciting that . . . at 3 she shouldn't know that."