NEW YORK – A New York City man died during an arrest – partly captured on amateur video – during which a plain-clothes police officer placed him in what appeared be a choke hold while several others brought him to the ground and struggled to place him in handcuffs.
Internal affairs investigators and prosecutors announced inquiries Friday into the death of Eric Garner, who died Thursday evening outside a Staten Island beauty salon. Garner, 43, had a heart attack as he struggled with officers trying to arrest him on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes, police said.
Partial video of the confrontation obtained by the New York Daily News shows an officer placing what appears to be a choke hold on the 6-foot-3, 350-pound Garner, who can be heard complaining repeatedly that he can’t breathe as at least four other officers bring him down.
The video shows the officer who apparently choked Garner using his hands to push Garner’s face into the sidewalk.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday promised a thorough investigation.
Police Commissioner William Bratton said the officer in the video appeared to have employed a choke hold, the use of which is prohibited in the NYPD patrol guide because it can be fatal.
Ramsey Orta, 22, shot the video posted by the newspaper. He said he had been sitting with Garner and discussing weekend plans before the confrontation.
Garner had just broken up a fight between two other men when the officers approached him, claiming they’d observed him selling loose cigarettes, Orta said.
Before they even grabbed him, he told them he wasn’t feeling good, and that’s why I pulled the camera out and started recording, said Orta, adding that Garner was asthmatic.
Garner had been arrested 31 times since 1988 on charges such as drug possession, selling untaxed cigarettes and assault, police said.
In the video, a clearly irate Garner shouts that he hasn’t done anything wrong.
Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today, Garner shouts. I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone.