The fourth season of Netflix's hit prison series just premiered, and it's possibly one of the darkest yet. And, that's thanks to one major moment, which, of course, means major SPOILERS are ahead for Season 4, Episode 12. Poussey died on Orange is the New Black, and it was a heartbreaking moment. The show has killed characters before, like poor Tricia Miller who overdosed in Season 1. But, this death was much more dramatic than that. Poussey died at the hands of a correctional officer who didn't realize she couldn't breathe as he pinned her down during a scuffle.
The scene called to mind the far-too-many real people who have died at the hands of police for decades, whether through intentional police misconduct, or through arrest accidents (like what happened to Poussey.) Her death especially calls to mind Eric Garner, as Poussey could be seen mouthing, "I can't breathe" in her final moments, much like Garner did before his death in 2014. In that case, NBC New York reported that a grand jury declined to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed Garner in the chokehold that the medical examiner alleges contributed to his death, according to TIME. According to NBC New York, Pantaleo released a statement claiming that he never meant to hurt Garner.
I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.
In Poussey's fictional case, the C.O. was distracted by Suzanne attacking him and didn't realize Poussey couldn't breathe until it was too late. But, the fact that it was an accident doesn't make her death any less tragic. She was a major member of the cast of characters, and one-half of fan-favorite couple Pousoso. Her energy on the show will be missed, but hopefully her fictional death can serve as a reminder that black people dying at the hands of officers, whether accidental or intentional, is a serious issue — and not just on screen.