Only Officer Daniel Pantaleo knows what motivated him to confront and ultimately kill Eric Garner—and what spurred him in previous incidents that drew two civil rights lawsuits during his eight years with the New York Police Department. Maybe he's a racist. Maybe he's a martinet. Maybe he's just an asshole. The fact of the matter is, it's difficult to think of a good reason for killing a man who attracted police attention by breaking up a fight and peddling a few untaxed cigarettes. We'll never know what demons may lurk in any officer's heart, which sets the stage for dangerous encounters in a country where 70 percent or more of us are technically lawbreakers.
If we really want to reduce the chance of future Eric Garners, writes J.D. Tuccille, we need to slash the spiderweb of laws, rules, and regulations that turn the majority of Americans into criminals, and make us all potential targets for the police and whatever inner demons may drive them.