On July 17, a man died while police were trying to subdue him outside a beauty salon in Staten Island, New York. Police used a chokehold on the man even as he claimed he was having trouble breathing. Now, in the aftermath of the incident, the New York Police Department is announcing that officers will be retrained in the use of force.
Eric Garner, 43, may have had a heart attack while police were attempting to subdue him after a verbal altercation. A video of the arrest shot by a bystander and friend of Garner’s showed police smashing the 400-pound man’s face into a concrete sidewalk. In the video Garner is seen being held in a chokehold by one officer while two others struggle to cuff him.
It was reported that during his takedown, the dying man was heard telling officers that he couldn’t breathe.
“Before they even grabbed him, he told them he wasn’t feeling good and that’s why I pulled the camera out and started recording,” said Ramsey Orta, 22. The bystander also offered that Garner was asthmatic and had just broken up a fight between two other men. “They could’ve just hopped out on the guys who were fighting, but they didn’t bother to ask. They just jumped straight on him.”
Immediately after the video went viral, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement saying, “We have a responsibility to keep every New Yorker safe, and that includes when individuals are in custody of the NYPD.”
City officials have also reported that the FBI is looking into the case and may begin its own investigation of the case as a civil rights violation.
After the police and the city took criticism after the video went out to a wider audience, the city announced the implementation of a new training regime.
On Tuesday Police Commissioner William Bratton told the media, “We need to do a lot more, a lot more, on the issue of training.”
Bratton reported that a retinue of officers will travel to Los Angeles to study the LAPD’s training on the use of force, a program Bratton himself used to oversee.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, an 8-year veteran and the officer seen on the video delivering the chokehold, was placed on “modified assignment” while the department carries out its investigation of the incident.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.