Father’s Day was hard for the families of Eric Garner, Delrawn Small and Saheed Vassell, who called Monday for the city to take action against the police officers involved in their deaths.
Relatives of the men — all fathers — gathered on the steps of City Hall Monday to ask for accountability and transparency from Mayor de Blasio and City Hall in the investigations of the police officers accused of killing their family members.
“As you know, my granddaughter Erica, she passed away last year, two days before New Year’s,” said Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother. “And this was without seeing justice for her father.”
Garner died in 2014 when police officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a prohibited chokehold while arresting him on Staten Island for selling untaxed cigarettes.
His family is still waiting for the department to take action against Pantaleo, who remains an NYPD officer on desk duty. The NYPD said the Department of Justice routinely asked local police to hold off on disciplinary action pending their investigations and that the case “was no exception.”
De Blasio has said he is waiting for the result of a federal civil rights investigation, but advocates have argued he does not need to wait to take internal disciplinary action. A local grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo.
“We are approaching four years to mark Eric’s death and the NYPD is still covering these officers who killed my son. The officers are still getting pay raises,” Carr said. “Officer Pantaleo has gotten a $20,000 pay raise since the day that he killed my son. So it seems like the de Blasio administration is giving raises for them killing my son.”
Victoria Davis, the sister of Delrawn Small — killed in July 2016 in what prosecutors said was a case of road rage by NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs, who was acquitted at trial — said Father’s Day was difficult this year.
“It’s even more painful because Delrawn was like a father to us. He helped raise and protected us,” she said. “Delrawn’s son was in the car when Delrawn was killed. He was only four months old at the time, when he witnessed his father being killed by Officer Wayne Isaacs.”
And Eric Vassell, the father of Saheed Vassell — killed in Brooklyn in April after he waved a metal object on the street and pointed it at bystanders like it was a weapon — said his entire neighborhood has been in mourning since his son’s death.
“Saheed should still be alive with us today. He should have been able to spend Father’s Day with me and also his 15-year-old son,” he said. “Saheed will no longer be with us for holidays.”
The NYPD said the department had provided video, briefed the press and met with clergy and elected officials regarding Vassell’s death. The department is withholding the names of officers involved for their safety, a spokesperson said.
Each family said they honored their loved one on Father’s Day. Carr said she honored Garner at church and at a Juneteenth ceremony. David said she and other relatives of Small’s went to Coney Island, held a spiritual ceremony and tossed flowers in the water.
Vassell said Eric Vassell’s son went to his grave on Father’s Day with flowers.
“Unfortunately, my heart was so broken I could not go to the grave site,” Vassell said. “It was too much for me.”
Elected officials also called for the city to act.
“I’m just calling on the de Blasio administration to just step up and do what is right what is clearly right and stop being a coward when it comes to finding justice for these families,” said City Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn).
Councilmen Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams (both D-Brooklyn) argued accountability and transparency had decreased under de Blasio — with Lander noting how long it takes to get information or process Civilian Complaint Review Board complaints, and Williams highlighting the city’s interpretation of a state law as prohibiting them from releasing disciplinary records that for years had been public.
“We not only have not made any progress,” Lander said. “We have gone backwards.”
Police officials disagreed.