Eric Garner's Family Has Yet to Receive Thousands of Dollars Raised Online

By  Ben Fractenberg and Nicholas Rizzi | February 19, 2015 7:38am 

 The family of Eric Garner started a Kickstarter campaign to create an album in his memory. 
Eric Garner Album
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STATEN ISLAND — Online fundraisers are pulling in big bucks in the name of Eric Garner, but family members say they haven't seen any of the cash.

At least 19 crowd-funding projects that claim to raise money for Garner's family have been posted on various websites — and one has raised nearly $75,000. Yet Garner's mother Gwen Carr, who is the administrator of his estate, and one of his daughters, Erica Garner, said with the exception of a few fundraisers, they don't know where the money is going.

"I feel like people are trying to use my father's name for their own gain," said Erica Garner, 24, who said she's looking into legal action against the various campaigns not affiliated with the family. "It's unfortunately a sad situation."

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died July 17 on Staten Island after police used an apparent chokehold as they tried to place him under arrest on charges of selling untaxed cigarettes.

Other fundraising campaigns claiming to raise funds on the family's behalf appear on websites such as Indiegogo, Fundly, GoFundMe and others.

GoFundMe campaign by advocacy group the Charlotte Activist Collective is trying to raise $1 million for Garner's widow, Esaw Snipes, according to the site.

"We've been in touch with Esaw Garner and she supports our fundraising efforts!" organizers wrote on their bio page.

"We've been in touch with the Garner family and we will soon personally be going to deliver your donations to them. When we do so, we will post ANY and ALL media & messages here and on our social media pages. Please donate and/or share with your family, friends, and acquaintances online and off."

Officials from Charlotte Activist Collective, which has already raised $9,301, did not respond to emails or messages on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Snipes could not be reached for comment, but Carr and Erica Garner had never heard of the fund.

A spokeswoman for GoFundMe declined to discuss the fundraiser.

The site allows campaigns to receive donations as they come in, instead of waiting to disburse the funds once a campaign has reached its monetary goal the way that sites like Kickstarter do.

GoFundMe's spokeswoman said the Garner family and donors could contact the website directly if they had any issues or concerns about the legitimacy of any of the campaigns.

Another fund, started by St. Louis book editor Andrew Doty, who has no relation to Garner and did not know the Staten Island man before his death, took in almost $75,000 for the family through Fundly.

Doty said he launched the campaign nearly two months ago because he wanted to help and didn't trust other fundraisers.

"I don't know if these people actually planned on sending the money to the Garner family," Doty said. "I decided that I could do better than that."

He said Fundly has kept the nearly $75,000 as he worked to verify which Garner representative to send it to. 

Doty said he recently agreed to send it to family lawyer Jonathan Moore and have him dole it out after being bombarded by calls from relatives or people claiming to be relatives who asked him to send them the cash directly.

"It's made me very wary of who's calling me and sending me emails," said Doty, "I got these sort of mixed messages... I waited for that confirmation [from Jonathan Moore] and now we're in the process of getting that money to him."

Moore did not return multiple phone calls and an email left over a two-week period.

Carr said she had spoken to Doty and said she agrees with him that the best way to transfer the money to the family was to go through Moore.

Both Carr and Erica Garner said that a previous IndieGoGo campaign "to support the children of Eric Garner" by another of Garner's daughters raised more than $40,000, but that daughter refused to share it with Erica Garner.

"As soon as the money came in, she pulled back and nobody knows where that money went," Erica Garner said.

The daughter, whose name is being withheld because she has not been accused of any illegality, did not return several emails requesting comment that were sent over several days.

Erica Garner recently started two of her own fundraising campaignsone for $150,000 to pay bills for her and her 5-year-old daughter while she continues to protest her father's death and another for $100,000 to record an album to raise awareness about police brutality.

So far, her campaigns have raised $3,412.

Carr, who is named as the administrator of Garner's estate on a $75 million notice of claim filed against the city, said she hoped that the fundraiser money would be divided between the family and be used for a good cause, like protesting her son's death.

"Some of the family has been getting money, but to me they haven’t been sharing it," Carr said.

"I hate to see other people arguing about money. My son lost his life. This is how all of this came about, you can't ever bring him back. Justice is a bigger issue."

Esaw Snipes and Garner's infant daughter, Legacy Garner, are also named on the notice of claim. Two of Garner's six children are under 18 — his son Emery Snipes-Garner, 15, and Legacy.

An IndieGoGo campaign to raise $25,000 on behalf of Carr — who hasn't worked in six months since she started protesting her son's death — has raised $540 so far, according to the site.

"She hasn't been able to go back to work since her son died," said Cynthia Davis, president of the Staten Island chapter of the National Action Network, who created the campaign.

"It's not that she's asking for money, but I see her suffering. I know what she's going through, I understand why she wouldn't be able to go back to work."

The National Action Network, which worked with Carr and Esaw Garner following the death, said that the lawyer would speak about the distribution of funds, but Moore never responded.

Garner's arrest was captured in a dramatic video that shows NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo wrestle Eric Garner to the ground. The dying man could be heard saying "I can't breathe" numerous times.

In December, a grand jury ruled not to indict Pantaleo for Garner's death, which was ruled a homicide by chokehold by the medical examiner.

Erica Garner and Eric Garner's brother, Steven Flagg, recently started a $100,000 fundraising campaign on Kickstarter to create an album dedicated to raising awareness about police brutality. That fund has yet to raise any money.

There are no major artists signed on to the project yet, but the family wants to use industry pros like mastering engineer Chris Athens to help produce the album.

Athens told DNAinfo via email he has not been in touch with the family, but would be “happy” to help master the album.

The first song on the album will be “This Ends Today,” which was recorded by Erica Garner and Flagg. The song has more than 90,000 listens on SoundCloud.

Carr said she's disappointed to see the discord that the dueling fundraisers have had on the family.

"My son had to die and you're reaping the benefits," Carr said. "You should put it towards a good cause, not just have money and do what you will with it."