The death of a Staten Island man who was put into an apparent choke hold by the New York Police Department was ruled a homicide today by the city's medical examiner.
The incident provoked outrage last month after a witness filmed New York Police Department cops placing Eric Garner in what appeared to be a chokehold while arresting Garner for selling cigarettes illegally. Garner, who was 6-foot-3 and 350 pounds, could be heard saying that he could not breathe.
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After his death, officers told supervisors that they did not think excess force was used and initially blamed Garner's death on a heart attack before the film went viral.
The New York City Medical 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 said that acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypersensitive cardiovascular disease were "contributing conditions" but still ruled the manner of death a "homicide."
The officer who was seen in the video placing Garner in the choke hold, Daniel Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran, was placed on modified assignment pending the outcome of investigations into the incident by the district attorney and NYPD Internal Affairs unit. The FBI also said it was monitoring the case.
Pantaleo's gun and badge were taken away pending the outcome of the investigations.
The District Attorney's office said it had seen the medical examiner's results and the investigation was ongoing. No charges have yet been filed in the death.
“We have been in contact with the Medical Examiner’s Office, who has indicated to us the cause and manner of death of Eric Garner on July 17, 2014. We await the issuance of the official death certificate and the autopsy report. The investigation into Mr. Garner’s death continues,” the DA's office said in a statement.
The city's police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, released a strongly-worded statement saying that if Garner hadn't resisted arrest his death would not have occurred. They also called for a full "analysis" of Garner's death, citing his health problems.
"Police Officers don’t start their days expecting or wanting something like this to occur in the performance of their duties," PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said. “The ME’s report indicates that Mr. Garner was a man with serious health problems so there will have to be a complete and thorough analysis of all the factors that played a part in this tragedy."
"We believe, however, that if he had not resisted the lawful order of the police officers placing him under arrest, this tragedy would not have occurred," the statement said.