A 22-year-old demonstrator has been accused of punching two police officers during last week’s protests of a Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
Yotameli Sayer was charged Wednesday with resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct and multiple counts of assault after officers in Union Square and at the Staten Island Ferry terminal in lower Manhattan were both sucker-punched Thursday night, authorities say. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment and his lawyer declined to comment.
Sayer, of Bushwick, was arrested after the officer in Union Square was punched at about 10:30 p.m., the NYPD says.
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After arresting the man, officers were able to link Sayer to the punching at the ferry terminal about two hours earlier, the NYPD says.
Police officer Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD cop seen in widely circulated amateur video wrapping his arm around Garner's neck as the heavyset, asthmatic 43-year-old yelled, "I can't breathe!", nearly a dozen times while gasping for air during the July 17 confrontation in Tompkinsville, met Wednesday with the department's internal affairs investigators looking into the case.
Pantaleo's attorney Stuart London told NBC 4 New York the investigators questioned Pantaleo for about two hours as they probe whether department policy was violated in the case. Pantaleo and the police union have said he did not use a chokehold, which is forbidden under NYPD policy, while taking Garner into custody, but a takedown tactic taught by the department.
The meeting comes one week after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer on criminal charges in Garner's death. The deliberative body delivered a vote of "no true bill," which determined there was not probable cause that a crime of criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter -- the two charges NBC 4 New York was told the jury was given to consider -- was committed by Pantaleo.