Eric Garner

Eric GarnerPolice chokehold kills father of six

Compiled from various sources
submitted by: Larry Fedja – August 2014

Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item

On Thursday 17 July 2014, Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father of six of Staten Island, went into cardiac arrest after officers attempted to take him into custody on charges of selling illegal cigarettes. He was pronounced dead at the hospital approximately one hour later.

A video published by the New York Daily News apparently captures Eric’s final moments. In the footage, a plainclothes officer tells him that he watched him sell cigarettes. Eric went on to deny this, saying: “I didn’t sell nothing. Every time you see me, you want to harass me, you want to stop me.”

Eric and the officer continue to quarrel, and then the officer reaches for Eric’s hands in an attempt to place him in handcuffs but he resists, and another officer can be seen putting his arm around his neck and wrestling him to the ground.

In the video, Eric repeats: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” as more officers surround him and keep him pinned to the ground.

It was said that Eric Garner had been arrested more than 30 times, often accused of selling loose cigarettes bought outside the state. He resented the scrutiny by the police which he considered harassment. In 2007 he filed a handwritten complaint in federal court accusing a police officer of conducting a cavity search of him on the street, “digging his fingers in my rectum in the middle of the street” while people passed by.

More recently he told lawyers that he intended to take all the cases against him to trial. “He was adamant he wouldn’t plead guilty to anything,” said Christopher Pisciotta, the lawyer in charge of the Staten Island office of Legal Aid. Family members of Eric Garner at a rally in Harlem soon after his death, called for a Federal Inquiry into his death, and the use of a chokehold which is banned in police restraint techniques.

Tensions remained high as friends and relatives visited a makeshift memorial set up for Eric. Candles, flowers and personal items like baseball caps began to build up on the sidewalk of Victory Boulevard, near Bay Street, where he died.

Just days after the death NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton ordered his 35,000 officers to be retrained in the use of force as an incensed senator called the death of Eric “murder.” State Senator, Bill Perkins, declared at a City Hall rally; “Without even being arrested, he was choked to death. It’s outrageous. It’s unacceptable. This was a murder.”

An initial autopsy was deemed inconclusive, and a spokeswoman for the medical examiner said further tests would be needed. on 1 August 2014 however, Eric’s death was ruled a homicide by the city’s medical examiner.

The examiner ruled that the cause of death was “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest, and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.” They also said that acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypersensitive cardiovascular disease were “contributing conditions” but still ruled the manner of death a “homicide.”

In an August 2014 press conference the Rev. Al Sharpton took issue with the Police Department’s strategy of going after petty crimes to prevent larger ones, also known as “broken windows” policing. The tactic is “disproportionate in the black and Latino community,” he said, questioning its effectiveness.


Follow-up News:

“They have let us down”: Eric Garner’s family criticizes decision not to indict NYPD officer
16 July 2019

3 years after his death, Eric Garner’s mother says she won’t give up
17 July 2017

Eric Garner’s family to receive $5.9m settlement from New York City
14 July 2015

NYPD Chokehold Death Ruled a Homicide
1 August 2014

Tears, anger and calls for ‘justice’ at memorial for Eric Garner
18 July 2014

Eric Garner and the plague of brutality against black men
18 July 2014

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