An investigation is underway due to the unlawful death of Staten Island native Eric Garner, who died after an NYPD officer performed a chokehold apparently after he resisted arrest. Garner, who had chronic asthma, was questioned by New York police officers about the sale of illegal cigarettes. The argument soon escalated with Garner continuously requesting the officers to “leave him alone.”
According to two witnesses who filmed the incident, one officer then appeared to place Garner in a chokehold from behind and did not even release the hold when he fell to the ground. A few minutes later, Garner can be heard stating, “I can’t breathe,” during which an officer pressed his head against the sidewalk. Four other policemen assisted in bringing Garner down to the pavement, even though it was evident he was gasping for air. He was pronounced dead due to a heart attack, almost one hour after the confrontation, at Richmond University Medical Center
Twenty-two-year-old Ramsey Orta, a resident from Staten Island who recorded one of the videos, mentioned that as soon as backup came, that is when a police officer ran behind Garner and started choking him. Orta continued to say that before the officers grabbed Garner, Garner mentioned to the police that he was not feeling well. That was the reason Orta began videotaping the event.
The unlawful death of Eric Garner, who died after a chokehold was performed on him by a NYPD officer, has created outrage in the community and has even inspired Reverend Al Sharpton to put together rallies on Saturday in Garner’s honor and to call attention to his passing.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, during a news conference on Friday with Deputy Commissioner William J. Bratton, said that the incident was a tragedy. “I was very troubled by the video I reviewed earlier today,” he said.
Bratton stated at the news conference that the video showed that the officers made it evident to Garner that it was their intent to arrest him. In addition, Garner made it obvious to the policemen that he was not going to allow himself to be detained. The chokehold, which led Eric Garner to his death, was not only a violation of the New York Police Department’s policy, but also illegal.
Gary Neives Jr., another Staten Island local, also witnessed the altercation and stated that officers routinely accused Garner of selling loose cigarettes. He said that after Garner was unconscious, he did not see any resuscitation efforts offered by the police officers that brought him to the ground. “They basically took a look at him, walked back to their truck parked a half block away, and walked his dead body up to the ambulance,” he stated.
Garner did have a previous arrest record, according to New York City court records, which could be why law enforcement was intent on arresting him. He was charged on March 28 and May 7 for selling cigarettes illegally, and in August of 2013 for possession of marijuana and the sale of untaxed cigarettes. Garner was detained for his previous offenses by the policemen from the 120th Precinct, which patrol the area where Garner was killed.
DeBlasio said that the city has a responsibility of keeping every New Yorker safe, including when individuals are in the custody of the NYPD. He continued by saying that they are using every resource available to ensure a thorough investigation of the terrible occurrence.
Regardless of Eric Garner’s former run-ins with the law, the Staten Island resident should not have suffered an unlawful death. He died shortly after a NYPD officer performed an unnecessary chokehold in order to get him to cooperate with the arrest.
By Amy Nelson