A Staten Island man died Thursday after police placed him in a chokehold to restrain him during an attempt to arrest him for the sell of untaxed cigarettes. Videos that were taken during the scuffle show a New York Police Department officer using what appears to be an illegal chokehold on Eric Garner. Now the NYPD is under fire from New Yorkers and several activist groups accusing police brutality.
The Raw Story reported July 18 that Eric Garner, a 400-lb. asthmatic father of six, had been sitting in front of a beauty shop when two plainclothes detectives started asking him about selling illegal cigarettes.
The New York Daily News revealed that, in a video the paper had obtained, a verbal and physical stand-off ensued where Garner repeatedly told the detectives and subsequent police officers that arrived on scene that he hadn't sold any cigarettes and that they should leave him alone. He told them he was tired of them messing with him all the time.
Ramsey Orta, 22, took the video and at one point tried to intercede for his friend, telling police officers that Garner had just broke up a fight between three guys and had not been selling cigarettes. Orta was ignored.
Garner told the police, "Please, don't touch me." Then they tackled him, five officers wrestling with him, one getting behind the large man and putting him in a chokehold. Garner yelled that he couldn't breathe six distinct times. His head was slammed into the sidewalk a couple times.
Orta told the Daily News later that Garner had started foaming at the mouth. "And that’s it, he was done. The cops were saying, ‘No, he’s OK, he’s OK.” He wasn’t OK.”
Another witness told the Daily News that after telling the police officers he couldn't breathe and to get off him, the big man got quiet. "He died right there."
In the video, Garner is motionless at the end of the fray. Police await the arrival of paramedics.
Several videos of the Eric Garner chokehold incident were taken, but the one has gone viral, copied and reposted by numerous uploaders, including media outlets. Several of the videos have over a hundred thousand views. The video shared by Gawker has nearly 300,000 views to date.
Eric Garner was rushed to Richmond University Medical Center where, according to authorities, he later died of cardiac arrest.
The family backed up Ramsey Orta's story about the fight and about Garner not having sold any cigarettes that day. The 43-year-old man was due in court in October to face three charges, including marijuana possession and for selling untaxed cigarettes. However, when he was approached Thursday by the NYPD officers, he hadn't been selling, nor did he have any cigarettes on him or in his car, claimed the family.
“They’re covering their asses; he was breaking up a fight. They harassed and harassed my husband until they killed him,” Garner's wife, Esaw, said.
She told the Daily News that shortly after arriving at the hospital to find her husband dead, nobody, not even the police that were there, would tell her anything. She then ran into a couple of Internal Affairs detectives. One of the officers, a Detective Howard, told her that his office was involved because there was "some wrongdoing."
Eric Garner was the father of six children.
By Saturday, the Associated Press had reported (via Yahoo News) that the officer who had administered the chokehold on Eric Garner had been stripped of his gun and badge and placed behind a desk, according to an official statement from the New York Police Department.