The New York City Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died in a chokehold by a police officer, a homicide on Friday.
Garner, 43, was arrested by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo on July 17 on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. Video footage captured the incident with Pantaleo in plain clothes putting Garner in a chokehold. Garner asked the officer to stop because he couldn’t breathe before falling silent. He was later pronounced dead at Richmond University Medical Center.
Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, said Friday that Garner died from compression of the neck, labeled a chokehold by the office, compression of the chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by cops.
An autopsy report said Garner’s acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertension were contributing factors in his death.
The NYPD did not make a comment.
Garner's family and the Rev. Al Sharpton met with federal prosecutors last month, pleading for an investigation into his death, which caused widespread outrage in his community and beyond. NYPD Internal Affairs said it was investigating, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is “closely monitoring” the investigation. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio also acknowledged the Staten Island man’s death, saying he was taking it “very seriously” and “harnessing all resources available to the city to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances of this tragic incident.”
The story of Garner’s death went viral last month after video emerged of the father of six children being held in a chokehold and then slammed onto the ground by the NYPD.
"Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today," Garner said. "I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone."
In the footage, Garner told police that he could not breathe after being cuffed and taken to the ground.
“I can't breathe, I can't breathe!" Garner screamed six times and then went quiet.
“They jumped him and they were choking him. He was foaming at the mouth,” Ramsey Orta, 22, who recorded the video, told the New York Daily News. “And that’s it, he was done. The cops were saying, ‘No, he’s OK, he’s OK.” He wasn’t OK.”
Police said Garner "took a fighting stance" and "absolutely resisted arrest."
Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran on the force, was stripped of his badge and weapon and placed on "modified assignment” along with another officer because using the chokehold tactic violates NYPD procedure.
A second video also emerged of EMS workers hardly paying attention to an unresponsive Garner during the chokehold incident. They were suspended without pay pending an investigation.
The Staten Island District Attorney’s Office said it is awaiting a death certificate and autopsy report from the medical examiner.
“The investigation into Mr. Garner’s death continues,” the DA’s office told CBS New York.