The Killing of Eric Garner
On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, an African American, died in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island, New York, after a police officer put him in a chokehold, a tactic banned by the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Garner was initially approached by Officer Justin Damico on suspicion of selling “loosies”, single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps. After Garner expressed to the police that he was tired of being harassed and that he was not selling cigarettes, officers made the move to arrest Garner. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, also on scene, put his arms around the much taller Garner’s neck, applying a chokehold shown in a widely viewed video recording of the event. While lying face-down on the sidewalk surrounded by four officers, Garner is heard to repeat numerous times, “I can’t breathe”. Garner was pronounced dead approximately one hour later at the hospital.
After the incident, city medical examiners concluded that Garner was killed by neck compression from the chokehold, along with “the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police”. Contributing factors included bronchial asthma, heart disease, obesity, and hypertensive cardiovascular disease. As a result of Garner’s death, four EMTs and paramedics who responded to the scene were suspended without pay on July 21, 2014; officers Damico and Pantaleo were placed on desk duty; and Daniel Pantaleo was stripped of his service gun and badge.
On December 3, 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict officer Pantaleo. The event stirred public protests and rallies with charges of police brutality and was broadcast nationally over various media networks. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would launch an “independent, thorough, fair, and expeditious” civil rights investigation into Garner’s death.
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