NEW YORK — After Gwen Carr’s son, Eric Garner, died following a police chokehold there was no criminal trial.
Over the last few weeks, Carr was finally able to sit in a courtroom. She was right next to George Floyd’s family in Minneapolis during the trial of Derek Chauvin.
“I was just saying ‘please God, don’t let this be like my case and so many others,'” Carr said back in New York Wednesday. “In the very beginning, I told the family ‘it looks like a slam dunk but don’t count on it because I had a video.”
Carr waited on Tuesday’s verdict anxiously.
“It’s like America was on trial. Not only the police officer,” she said.
Nicole Bell lost her fiancé on their wedding day 15 years ago. Sean Bell was killed in a barrage of 50 bullets from NYPD officers and while there was a criminal trial, all of the officers in Bell’s case were acquitted.
All these years later, she reflected on her own experience and then the Chauvin trial.
“The verdict itself, it was bittersweet, it was definitely a reflection of what my family went through 15 years ago,” she said. “It was a great, historic moment, it was a feeling of ‘we finally received some sort of accountability’ but it’s not enough.”
Bell believes the next step for change includes a rethink in priorities in terms of police funding.
In the years since her son’s death, Gwen Carr has been a tireless advocate for police reform and she’s not done yet. While former officer Daniel Pantaleo was fired from the NYPD in 2019, Carr is still pushing to see the other officers who played a role in her son’s fatal encounter also removed from the force.
“We don’t need those bad officers on the streets of New York,” she said.
Meanwhile, Nicole Bell has a very clear definition of what justice would look like.
“Justice would be never having to sit here and have another conversation about this ever again,” she said.