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Chokehold death of Eric Garner ruled homicide, charges pending against officers

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The death of Eric Garner, the 350-pound man taken to the ground by a New York City police officer last month, has been ruled a homicide, medical examiners ruled Friday, Aug. 1.

Garner's case became news when a video of him being questioned by police for selling illegal cigarettes on a Staten Island street July 17 was made public. The video went viral after Garner died.

A couple minutes into the clip, Garner tells officers to "leave him alone," before officers attempt to take him down and cuff him. During the struggle, Officer Daniel Pantalea grabbed the 6-foot-3 Garner around the neck, subduing him so other police could complete the takedown. Such a technique is outlawed by the New York Police Department. As officers wrestle Garner to the ground, he can heard saying several times, "I can't breathe," before losing consciousness and dying.

According to the medical examiner, Garner died from “compression of his neck (choke hold), compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”

Asthma and obesity were also contributing factors, New York City Medical Examiner’s Office spokesman Julie Bolcer told CBS New York.

Officials say the illegal chokehold involved Pantalea grabbing Garner around the neck while other officers took him to the ground. A New York Daily News report a day after the incident notes that police rules prohibit takedown moves defined as those involving “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”

Chokeholds were banned by the New York Police Department in 1994. The ban came after a Bronx man died when an officer put him in a chokehold to restrain him during a dispute over a pickup football game.

As of this report, charges are pending in Garner's death.

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