George W Bush Says NY Jury's Eric Garner Decision 'Hard to Understand'

George W. Bush on Eric Garner
George W. Bush speaks to CNN about a grand jury's decision not to indict the NYDP officer who choke-held Eric Garner leading to his death. |

Former President George W. Bush said a New York grand jury's decision not to charge the white police officer who fatally conducted a choke-hold on an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, was "hard to understand."

"You know, the verdict was hard to understand," Bush said in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley. "But I hadn't seen all the details – but it's sad that race continues to play such an emotional, divisive part of life."

The jury decided Wednesday not to indict the officer, Daniel Pantaleo.

Referring to a video posted on YouTube that showed the incident leading to Garner's death, Bush said, "how sad."

The nearly 3-minute video of the encounter between Garner and New York police officers shows Garner screaming "I can't breathe, I can't breathe," repeatedly before falling silent as cops swarmed him when he refused to be handcuffed after expressing surprise that the officers were harassing him for trying to break up a fight.

Garner died in July while he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes.

Bush added, however, that the country has improved since he was a kid in the 1970s when he could see "race riots with cities being burned."

Bush also spoke about protests after a Missouri grand jury also decided not to indict white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of a black teen, Michael Brown.

He said he talked about the subject with his former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"She just said, you gotta understand that there are a lot of black folks that are incredibly, more and more, distrusting of law enforcement," Bush said. "Which is a shame, because law enforcement's job is to protect everybody."

Meanwhile, a second video being shown by the media shows Garner lying on the ground, completely still, for about seven minutes with police officers standing around him. They hold him down although he appears to be unconscious. The officers also searched his pockets.

According to an autopsy report, Garner died due to compression to his neck caused by the chokehold, compression to his chest and "prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

Protests were held across the country Friday.

Marches were held in Miami, Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, Chicago, Cleveland and Jacksonville, Florida, according to CNN.

In New York, protesters gave a list of demands to the media. Their demands included that all officers involved to be fired, for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate all complaints of excessive force and for the state Legislature to make a chokehold punishable by significant penalties.

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