The death of a Staten Island man has officially been declared a homicide by the city medical examiner, who says it was the result of being placed in a chokehold while police were trying to arrest him last month.
The ME’s office says Garner died due to compression to his neck and chest.
The ME says acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease were also contributing factors in Eric Garner’s death.
The 43-year-old died when police tried to arrest him for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes on a Tompkinsville street last month.
The incident was caught on video.
Chokeholds are banned by the NYPD, and Garner’s death has prompted widespread criticism of the department’s tactics.
The Legal Aid Society, which represented Garner on previous cases, said everyone could see it was a chokehold.
“I was not surprised because it looked like a chokehold to me,” said Seymour James, attorney-in-chief of the Legal Aid Society. “But I think it’s really a sad commentary on how the police department’s reacted to the communities that a person who was charged with selling a loose cigarette was killed because of overreaction by the police.”
James said the video speaks for itself and the officer should face charges.
“The viewing of the video showing that he was attacked, in effect, by the police officer, I think there ought to be an indictment, and then the trial will determine whether, in fact, the jury or the judge finds that the officer was guilty,” he said.
In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio said his administration will continue to work with all authorities to “ensure a fair and justified outcome.”
“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,” the statement reads, in part. “I’ve said that we would make change, and we will. As Mayor, I remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the proper reforms are enacted to ensure that this won’t happen again.”
Bratton released his own statement, saying the department will continue to cooperate with the Staten Island DA’s office.
Pat Lynch, the head of the city’s police union, offered his condolences to Garner’s family but defended the officers’ actions in a statement.
“The ME’s report indicates that Mr. Garner was a man with serious health problems so there will have to be a complete and thorough analysis of all the factors that played a part in this tragedy,” Lynch’s statement reads, in part. “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.”
Some of the people who live in Garner’s neighborhood were surprised by the ruling, adding that the incident should never have cost Garner his life.
NY1 spoke with Taisha Allen, who was there the day Garner died and took cellphone video.
“Even though the cops was being irate and they was acting up, but I was there, and I stood there, and I wanted to take the video so the world could see that he was really in distress, and he said that he couldn’t breathe, and he couldn’t breathe,” Allen said.
“I can’t understand that, homicide for selling a couple of loosies,” said neighbor Anthony Carmichael. “To me, they should have been after something else.”
Garner’s family and supporters will attend a rally with the Rev. Al Sharpton Saturday.