The death of Eric Garner, 43, who died in police custody on Staten Island on July 17, has been ruled a homicide by the city’s medical examiner. The examiner said a chokehold that compressed Garner’s neck and chest while he was lying on the ground was the cause of death.
The examiner also said there were other factors in Garner’s death, including his acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity, and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
Esaw Garner, Eric Garner’s widow, said at a Harlem rally that she wanted prosecutors to act. “I just want them to do the right thing and get justice for my husband.”
A spokesman for Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, the head investigator into Garner’s death, said he and his office received the determination of the medical examiner but had not received the official death certificate and the autopsy report. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton echoed that he got the report, too, and has already implemented measures to revamp use-of-force training in the NYPD.
An amateur video shows Garner in a chokehold applied by a plainclothes police officer, though chokeholds are banned under NYPD policy. In the video, Garner repeatedly gasps, “I can’t breathe!”
New York Mayor de Blasio was apprised of the examiner’s report, responding with words of consolation for Garner’s family. He asserted that his administration will join with the Staten Island district attorney and other responsible parties “to ensure a fair and justified outcome.” He added:
We all have a responsibility to work together to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust and create a culture where the police department and the communities they protect respect each other–and that’s a responsibility that Commissioner Bratton and I take very seriously.
He stated that he was “absolutely committed to ensuring that the proper reforms are enacted to ensure that this won’t happen again.”
The day before the examiner’s report was released, de Blasio convened a reform talk at City Hall with members of the community. Rev. Al Sharpton blasted Bratton and informed de Blasio that his son, Dante de Blasio, who is black, would be “a candidate for a chokehold” if he were not related to de Blasio.
Sharpton joined Garner’s family members to meet federal prosecutors last month; they urged the prosecutors to press for an investigation into Garner’s death. Sharpton asserted that Garner’s civil rights had been abused after he was arrested for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, and Sharpton concluded that the arrest led to Garner’s death.
Attorney General Eric Holder stated that the U.S. Justice Department is “closely monitoring” the inquiry.
Some of the fallout after Garner’s death included an officer being relieved of his gun and badge, another relegated to a desk, and two paramedics and two EMTs suspended without pay.
Pat Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said, “Police officers don’t start their days expecting or wanting something like this to occur in the performance of their duties,” adding, “We believe, however, that if he had not resisted the lawful order of the police officers placing him under arrest, this tragedy would not have occurred.”