Eric Garner death: Police union chief says Pantaleo is 'eagle scout'
New York City police block demonstrators on Times Square following the decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict a police officer who used a chokehold on Eric Garner, who subsequently died. The President of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association described the officer as an "eagle scout" to reporters Thursday. Getty Images

The head of the NYPD's police union praised Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who a grand jury declined to indict over the death of Eric Garner, calling him an “eagle scout,” in a press conference Thursday.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, told a press conference that Pantaleo was a “mature” policeman, who "went out and did a difficult job -- a job where there's no script, and sometimes with that there's tragedy that comes."

“We believe Mr. Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest,” Lynch told reporters, adding “It's also a tragedy for this police officer who has to live with that death.”

Lynch praised the Staten Island grand jury that declined to indict Pantaleo, saying that they had “made decisions based on evidence... not just one snippet of a video, that doesn't tell a whole story.”

Pantaleo has had "very few citizen complaints" against him over the course of more than 300 arrests, according to union spokesman Albert O'Leary, quoted by CNN.

Lyncy also offered criticism of New York mayor Bill De Blasio, who described his reaction to the video showing Garner's death in an interview Thursday: “I watched a video of a human being, and I saw a man die who didn’t have to die, and I saw a man cry out for his life in a way that went horribly wrong and can’t happen again,” De Balsio said.

“What police officers felt yesterday after [De Blasio's] press conference is that they were thrown under the bus,” Lynch said. “Police officers do not have the option to walk away... If the mayor wants us to change policies, and wants us to stand down against crime, then say that,” he added.

Lynch also echoed comments by other NYPD officers, who defended the physical tactics Pantaleo used on Garner, saying that they were “textbook training,” and did not amount to a chokehold -- a physical tactic that the NYPD has banned its officers from employing.

Thomas Verni, a former NYPD officer who also taught in the city's police academy, claimed that that tactics employed against Garner did not amount to the use of the banned chokehold. “A chokehold would require someone to put their arm directly around the person's neck and crush their windpipe, rendering the person immediately unconscious, and that was not the case here,” Verni told the BBC.

“Mr Garner did say, 10 or 11 times 'I can't breathe'... if he was placed in a chokehold, he would have been able to speak and would have been rendered unconscious immediately,” Verni added.

There have been widespread protests in New York city in the last 48 hours over the decision not to indict Pantaleo over Garner's killing.