Medical examiner rules Eric Garner’s death a homicide, says police chokehold killed him

Family and supporters of a New York man, who died after NYPD officers put him in a chokehold, rally for justice after his death is ruled a homicide. (Reuters)

The New York City Medical Examiner has classified the death of Eric Garner as a homicide, ruling that the 43-year-old Staten Island man was killed when a police officer put him in a chokehold.

Garner’s death on July 17 sparked widespread outrage after video of the incident was posted online.

He died because of “compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” according to medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer. Contributing factors to his death included asthma and hypertensive cardiovascular disease, the office ruled. The Associated Press first reported the medical examiner’s findings.

“Thank God the truth is finally out,” Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, told the New York Daily News. “Thank God for that.”

Chokeholds are prohibited by the New York Police Department, which is conducting its own investigation into the incident. In a brief statement sent to The Post, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said the department “has been informed of the preliminary findings” and “will continue to cooperate with the Richmond County District Attorney’s office, which is the lead investigative entity in this case.”

Garner appeared to have been selling individual cigarettes, a minor offense, which led to the confrontation with the police, Bratton has said previously.

The NYPD has come under increased scrutiny following Garner’s death, as has New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Garner, a black man, was subdued by a white officer.

“If Dante wasn’t your son,” Rev. Al Sharpton said to de Blasio this week, “he would be a candidate for a chokehold.”

In a statement Friday, de Blasio called Garner’s death “a tragic incident.”

“My administration will continue to work with all involved authorities, including the Richmond County District Attorney, to ensure a fair and justified outcome,” said de Blasio, who delayed a family vacation following Garner’s death last month.

The Staten Island District Attorney’s office said in a statement to New York Daily News that “the investigation into Mr. Garner’s death continues” and that the office was awaiting the official death certificate and autopsy report.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran of the force who was seen subduing Garner in the video, has turned in his badge and gun. Four medical emergency workers who responded to the incident have been placed on leave without pay as the investigation continues.

The U.S. Justice Department is “closely monitoring” the investigation into Garner’s death, Attorney General Eric Holder has said.

[This post has been updated multiple times.]

Elahe Izadi is a general assignment national reporter for The Washington Post.
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