Huffpost Crime

'Gentle Giant' Dies After NYPD Cop Puts Him In Chokehold

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New York Daily News
New York Daily News

A New York resident died Thursday after police officers put the man, who was asthmatic, in a chokehold before apparently slamming his head on the ground.

UPDATE: Video of Garner is exclusive to the New York Daily News, and has now been removed from this story per their request.

The New York Daily News obtained exclusive video of the incident, which shows Staten Island man Eric Garner, 43, begging officers to let him breathe as he lies on the ground helpless.

Now, his family is demanding accountability from the NYPD.

Police said Garner, who was a married father of six children, died of a heart attack during the arrest, according to The Associated Press. The NYPD said Garner had been seen selling untaxed cigarettes, and that he had been arrested before for the same offense.

In the video, Garner denied the allegations and asked a plainclothes officer why he was stopped.

“Every time you see me you want to mess with me," Garner told cops in the video. "I’m tired of it. It stops today!”

When Garner refused to put his hands behind his back, and asked one officer not to touch him, two others moved in to make the arrest.

Video shows at least one officer putting Garner in a chokehold and slamming him on the ground.

Garner can be heard screaming "I can't breathe, I can't breathe!" before going quiet.

Multiple witnesses to the death expressed anger at the NYPD.

“They jumped him and they were choking him. He was foaming at the mouth,” 22-year-old Ramsey Orta, who took the video, told The Daily News. “And that’s it, he was done. The cops were saying, ‘No, he’s OK, he’s OK.' He wasn’t OK.”

Another witness said Garner was "absolutely not selling cigarettes," Staten Island Live reported.

Those who knew Garner described him as a "gentle giant" and "a big teddy bear," according to the publication. His family members, including his wife Esaw Garner, said her husband suffered from chronic asthma.

Police told The AP that an investigation into his death is ongoing. The NYPD said Garner "took a fighting stance" and "absolutely resisted arrest."

In 1993, then-Commisioner Ray Kelly banned the use of chokeholds by officers, the New York Times reported.

More from a 2004 NYPD Patrol Guide:

"Members of the New York City Police Department will NOT use chokeholds. A chokehold shall include, but is not limited to, any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air."

At a memorial for Garner Thursday night, family members, friends, and supporters asked for justice.

"Is this cop still going to be on the force?" one woman asked SI Live. "Is this cop still going to be able to do this to somebody else?"

Community residents are attempting to organize a march on Friday.

UPDATE: Mayor Bill De Blasio has released a statement regarding the death of Garner.

"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Garner, who died yesterday afternoon while being placed in police custody. We have a responsibility to keep every New Yorker safe, and that includes when individuals are in custody of the NYPD. That is a responsibility that Police Commissioner Bratton and I take very seriously. We are harnessing all resources available to the City to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances of this tragic incident. The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau is working closely with the Office of the Richmond County District Attorney, which is leading this investigation."

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