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NYC Man's Chokehold Death Was A Homicide, Medical Examiner Says

NPR | Aug. 19, 2014 7:59 a.m.

Contributed By:

Bill Chappell

The death of Eric Garner in police custody has sparked controversy in New York City — and it's now been ruled a homicide. On Thursday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, sat with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, left, and Rev. Al Sharpton during a discussion on police-community relations.

The death of Eric Garner in police custody has sparked controversy in New York City — and it's now been ruled a homicide. On Thursday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, sat with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, left, and Rev. Al Sharpton during a discussion on police-community relations.

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Eric Garner, the unarmed man who died two weeks ago after police placed him in a chokehold, was a victim of homicide, says New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Garner’s death was captured in a video that showed his confrontation with police on a Staten Island sidewalk.

The update on Garner’s controversial death was announced Friday afternoon. Member station WNYC cites spokeswoman Julie Bolcer:

“Bolcer says [Garner’s] death was caused by ‘the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.’ She says asthma and heart disease were contributing factors.”

From Staten Island Live:

“Garner died after police attempted to place him under arrest on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes on Victory Boulevard and Bay Street in Tompkinsville. Police originally said he died from cardiac arrest, but cell phone video taken by a bystander shows an officer, identified as Daniel Pantaleo, place Garner in a chokehold and drag the heavyset man to the ground with the help of other officers, as he gasped, ‘I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!’”

As NPR’s Code Switch blog pointed out this week, the case has caused outrage that is rippling into broad conversations about politics, race, and law enforcement. It has also ruffled “old tensions between residents and the officers who patrol their neighborhoods,” as Gene Demby wrote.

Reporting on the debate over police restraint techniques, NPR’s Martin Kaste noted last week that the use of chokeholds is forbidden by the New York Police Department. And he cited an expert who said a person’s air supply can be cut off by an incorrect neck restraint — or if the person has a medical condition the officers don’t know about.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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