He's been a frequent presence at the NYPD disciplinary trial of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer accused of placing Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold.
During breaks in the trial, he often stands next to Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, as she speaks out about the case.
His name is Michael Garner, the cousin of Eric Garner, and for the last ten years he has been the MTA's Chief Diversity Officer.
Since 2014, he's been president of the New York Charter of One Hundred Black Men, a group dedicated to improving the quality of life and economic opportunities for the black community. It counts judges, doctors, lawyers, business titans and elected officials as members.
When asked whether or not his familial connection to Eric Garner was something he was trying to keep a secret before, Michael said, “I didn't want anybody to think that the reason why I was getting involved was to benefit from the exposure."
Michael Garner's mother and Eric Garner's father were first cousins.
While Eric's life was one of struggle and Michael's life is not, their link shows how even prominent African-Americans can be touched in a personal way by alleged police misconduct.
“It is a very, very frustrating experience. That in 2019, that something that happened in 2014 that we are still dealing with this and seeking justice," Michael Garner said.
Police say Eric Garner was resisting arrest for allegedly selling cigarettes on a Staten Street when Pantaleo placed his arm around Garner's neck. The medical examiner said that led to a fatal asthma attack.
"How does someone lose their life in being arrested. And for what he was being arrested for, that is simply a summons," Michael said.
Now that the case is before a judge, albeit an NYPD administrative judge, Michael Garner says he intends to be more vocal and visible.
“I want to hear [Pantaleo] speak, to see or to hear what he did. Because he should have been prosecuted, not only losing his job. He should have been prosecuted,” Michael said.
A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges. If found guilty on departmental charges, the officer could be fired.