Eric Garner dies in NYPD chokehold

Eric Garner dies in NYPD chokehold

On July 17, 2014, two New York Police Department officers confront Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American father of six, for illegally selling cigarettes. Garner dies after losing consciousness as a police officer locks him in an illegal chokehold, and within hours, a video of the incident begins to spark outrage across the country.

Garner was known as a "neighborhood peacemaker" in his Staten Island community, and was also well-known to the police for selling cigarettes illegally near the ferry terminal on Staten Island.

Officers Daniel Pantaleo and Justin D'Amico, called to the scene because of a fight that Garner reportedly broke up, exchanged words with Garner about his cigarettes before Pantaleo reached around Garner's neck and put him in a chokehold, despite such a maneuver being against NYPD rules.

Pinned to the ground by the officers, Garner repeatedly told them, "I can't breathe." Eventually, he lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead at a hospital roughly an hour later, and the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by suffocation.

Footage of the incident quickly went viral. There were protests in the days following Garner's death, but it was a grand jury's decision not to indict Pantaleo on December 3 that sparked large demonstrations in New York City and elsewhere across the country.

Garner's last words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. The police officer whose chokehold led to Garner’s death in 2014 was fired from the Police Department in 2019 and stripped of his pension benefits.

The following year, when New York State repealed its ban on publicizing police disciplinary records, it was revealed that Pantaleo had been investigated for misconduct seven times in the five years before Garner's death.

Eric Garner (1970–2014)

The choking death of Eric Garner on video in 2014 helped bring the debate on interactions between white police officers and unarmed African Americans to the national forefront. Eric Garner was born on September 15, 1970, in New York City, New York. Garner, whose mother was a subway operator, grew to 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 350 pounds. He worked as a mechanic and then in the city’s horticulture department for several years before health problems, including asthma, sleep apnea, and complications from diabetes, forced him to quit. He had six children, ranging in age from eighteen years to three months, and was with his wife, Esaw, for over twenty years. Although Garner was known in his community as a ‘gentle giant,’ he was arrested over thirty times in his life, mostly for lower level offenses such as selling untaxed cigarettes, driving without a license, and marijuana possession.

On July 17, 2014, Garner reportedly broke up a fight on a busy street in the Staten Island neighborhood of Tompkinsville. Upon arrival at the scene, New York Police Department officers confronted Garner and accused him of illegally selling individual cigarettes, or “loosies.” A passerby recorded Garner, who had filed a 2007 harassment complaint against the NYPD in federal court, responding, “I’m tired of it. This stops today.” Several officers now surrounded the unarmed Garner and one of them, Daniel Pantaleo, who was white, placed Garner in a chokehold and took him to the ground. With Pantaleo’s arm around his neck Garner could be heard repeatedly gasping his last words: “I can’t breathe.”

A short time later, forty-three-year-old Eric Garner was pronounced dead at Richmond University Hospital. Although police argued Garner was resisting arrest, the chokehold used by Officer Pantaleo had been cited as a “dangerous maneuver” by the NYPD and officially banned in 1993. On August 1, 2014, the city medical examiner classified Garner’s death as a homicide, and a grand jury was convened on August 19 to hear possible charges against the officers involved. On August 23, over a thousand protesters demonstrated peacefully near the site where Garner died.

As November 2014 came to a close, a grand jury decision in the Garner case was imminent. Meanwhile another unarmed black man, twenty-eight-year-old Akai Gurley, had been mistakenly shot and killed by an NYPD officer on November 20 in the darkened stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project, and officials in Ferguson, Missouri, declined to charge an officer there in the shooting death of yet another unarmed African American, eighteen-year-old Michael Brown. In response, thousands of protesters rallied in New York City on November 25, blocking traffic on busy streets, bridges, and tunnels. On December 3, the grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against Officer Pantaleo.

In the aftermath of Eric Garner’s death and the grand jury’s decision, “I can’t breathe” became a massive topic on social media and a rallying call among protesters around the country. During warm-ups before a December 8, 2015 NBA game in Brooklyn between the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland (Ohio) Cavaliers, players on both teams, including Cleveland superstar LeBron James, wore “I can’t breathe” t-shirts. Other NBA stars such as Derrick Rose of the Chicago (Illinois) Bulls and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles (California) Lakers also wore the shirt. These high-profile demonstrations were publicly endorsed by President Barack Obama afterward. In July 2015, a $5.9 million settlement was paid to the Garner family, with the city of New York admitting no liability.

US History News Blog

In July of 2014 a man named Eric Garner died after being put into a choke hold by officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner was stopped for the suspicion of selling loose cigarettes. After months of investigation, the grand jury decided not to indict officer Pantaleo. Many citizens of New York and from around the country are outraged by the jury's decision because of the numerous amounts of evidence. A cell phone captured video of the whole conflict and you can hear Garner repeatedly say, "I can't breathe." Also, NYPD says that officers are not allowed to use choke holds, proving the officer had done something wrong. Adding on to the evidence, a medical examiner had ruled Eric's death a homicide. Many people are upset because they feel like this is discrimination, being that we also just recently had outrage over the Michael brown case. What do you guys think? Is there still inequality in our society that is becoming more prevalent? Or do you feel it was right to not indict the officer?


What made the officer choke Eric Garner? By your summary of the crime it seems like the officer is wrong, but Eric Garner must have tried to fight the officer. I think that it is right not to indict the officer because he was using self defense. Another question I have is, does this feel like discrimination because a black man is killed by a white man? How would society react if a white man was killed by a black man?

I think that it can be dangerous to view things like police brutality objectively rather than subjectively - we must look at all the facts of the specific case before coming to a conclusion about police as a whole. However, in this case I believe the officer was at fault, because he used lethal force when it was not necessary. The subject of race also plays into this argument, though I believe it would be difficult to prove anything about the officer being racist.

I'd like to understand further details on why Eric Garner was placed in a choke hold, however, I don't think it was right to take it this far. This is definitely a clear example of police brutality, and it is extremely unfair that the police isn't receiving any punishment. Even if Garner was disobeying the police officer, it is cruel and unfair for the officer to put Garner's life at risk. All he should've done was calm Garner down and then put him under arrest, however, he took it to the next level and killed Garner even after Garner called out for mercy.

Putting race aside, what the officer did was unethical. It is a complete abuse of power, and outside the limitations of what police officers can do. Adding race back into the picture, it doesn't look too good for the officer in terms of the question as to whether he was acting out of racist intent or not. Using such brutal force was completely unnecessary, especially since Garner was not posing as a threat or danger. We would need further information to truly determine whether the officer was racist or not.

I do not believe it was right to not indict the officer, especially considering he used a tactic that is not allowed by NYPD officers. The punishment for selling loose cigarettes is not death, and this officer should not have used the lethal force that he did, even though Garner had a "lengthy criminal record."

I think these "law enforcers" need to get their sh*t straight and stop killing people who "might" be doing something wrong. What happened to law, and procedure? What happened to arresting the person, interrogating them, having a trial, and THEN decide what should happen to the person? Who do they think they are to be treating citizens like this. Citizens who after a closer look, ended up being innocent. Something needs to be done about these corrupt, unfair, cops who are poisoning our society after taking an oath to do the complete opposite.

The police officer's lack of training in the situation was deadly and should be punished. He should have known that he was putting Garner in physical danger rather than just doing his job when Garner repeatedly shouted "I can't breathe". These cases are all appalling and the fact that they are all coming out without any punishment to the officers is unfair and shows a clear abuse of power. I believe these problems will continue to appear until the proper consequences are given out. An officer's job is to prevent crimes, not commit them.

A New York City police officer will not face federal charges in the death of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man heard in a video repeatedly saying "I can't breathe" after he was put in an apparent chokehold, according to a person familiar with the case.

The Justice Department on Tuesday concluded its five-year investigation and will not bring civil rights or criminal charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was seen in the video with his arm around Garner's neck.

According to a senior Justice Department official, Attorney General William Barr made the final decision not to charge Pantaleo, choosing to follow the recommendations of Brooklyn prosecutors.

However, attorneys in the Civil Rights Division thought charges could have been filed, according to two DOJ officials.

The decision not to pursue charges comes one day before the fifth anniversary of Garner's death, which was also the deadline for charges to be filed.

Garner, 43, who was asthmatic, was being arrested for allegedly selling untaxed, loose cigarettes. His death on July 17, 2014, sparked national outrage and protests. The phrase "I can't breathe" — which he said 11 times during his arrest — became a rallying cry for police reform.

A medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide, saying the chokeholdwas the cause. Chokeholds are prohibited by the New York Police Department. Pantaleo has said that he performed a legal move called the "seatbelt" on Garner.

Pantaleo's lawyer, Stuart London, said the decision not to file charges confirms the officer did not violate Garner's civil rights.

“It is always a tragedy when there is a loss of life," he said in a statement. "Officer Pantaleo utilized NYPD approved techniques to make the arrest in this case. Officer Pantaleo is gratified that the Justice Department took the time to carefully review the actual evidence in this case rather than the lies and inaccuracies which have followed this case since its inception."

A grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict Pantaleo in Garner's death, but the officer was the subject of a departmental trial earlier this year. An administrative judge has not yet submitted her findings to Police Commissioner James O'Neill, who ultimately decides if Pantaleo will keep his job.

Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said at a news conference Tuesday following the decision, that there was not enough evidence to charge Pantaleo, or any of the other officers involved in Garner's arrest.

"There is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the police officers who arrested Eric Garner . acted in violation of the federal criminal civil rights act," he said, calling the death "a terrible tragedy."

The NYPD said in a tweet Tuesday that the disciplinary case against Pantaleo is ongoing and won't be affected by the Justice Department's announcement.

“Everyone agrees the incident should not have ended with Garner’s death," the senior Justice Department official told NBC News, adding that the law requires proof that Pantaleo acted "willfully" during his arrest of Garner.

“We prosecute people for what they do on purpose. We would have to prove that in that struggle, a dynamic situation, that the officer decided he was then going to apply that hold, that it was wasn’t just a mistake,” the official said.

The Justice Department's announcement sparked immediate criticism. Garner's daughter, Emerald, said she was "very angry" over the decision and called on Pantaleo to be fired.

"Five years later, and there's still no justice," she said at a news conference after the decision was announced. "Don't apologize to me, fire the officer."

Gwen Carr, Garner's mother, said the Justice Department "has failed us."

“My son said 'I can’t breathe' 11 times and today we can’t breathe because they have let us down,” she said. "We're asking the commissioner to make the right decision. Officer Pantaleo and all the officers involved in my son's death that day need to be off the force."

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson condemned the decision as "inexplicable and wrong."

"It took the Department of Justice five years to deny justice to Gwen Carr, when it takes five seconds to see that Eric Garner was choked to death for no reason," he said in a statement. "While I am not surprised by the Trump ‘Justice Department’s’ ill-advised and wrong-headed decision to give Officer Pantaleo a pass, I’m nonetheless outraged."

State Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement: “The entire world saw the same devastating video five years ago, and our eyes did not lie. Today’s inaction reflects a DOJ that has turned its back on its fundamental mission – to seek and serve justice."

Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent who covers the Justice Department and the Supreme Court, based in Washington.

Staten Island man dies after NYPD officers put him in chokehold

New York mayor Bill de Blasio and police commissioner Bill Bratton on Friday promised a "full and thorough" investigation into an incident, captured on video, in which an unarmed 43-year-old man died after being put into a chokehold by a New York police officer.

On Thursday afternoon, Eric Garner of Staten Island went into cardiac arrest after officers attempted to take him into custody on charges of selling illegal cigarettes. He was pronounced dead at the hospital about one hour later.

A video published by the New York Daily News apparently captures Garner's final moments.

In the video, a plainclothes officer tells Garner that he watched him sell cigarettes. Garner denies this, saying: "I didn't sell nothing."

"Every time you see me, you want to harass me, you want to stop me," Garner tells the officer.

Garner and the officer continue to quarrel, and then the officer reaches for Garner's hands in an attempt to place him in handcuffs. Garner resists, and another officer can be seen putting his arm around Garner's neck and wrestling him to the ground.

In the video, Garner repeats: "I can’t breathe, I can't breathe," as more officers surround him and keep him pinned to the ground.

De Blasio said he watched the video and was very troubled by what he saw, but urged patience during the investigation by the NYPD internal affairs bureau and the office of the Staten Island district attorney.

"It is too early to jump to any conclusions about this case," De Blasio said.

Bratton said an ambulance was called, and Garner was taken to the Richmond University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Bratton said Garner had apparently gone into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital.

Bratton said the use of chokeholds is prohibited by the NYPD because of the concern that they can cause serious injury or death.

"This would appear to have been a chokehold," Bratton said. "But the investigation both by the district attorney's office as well as by our internal affairs will seek to make that final determination."

Bratton said he has directed a review of the NYPD's policy on the use of of chokeholds.

Last year the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent board that investigates alleged misconduct by the NYPD, received 233 allegations of incidents involving chokeholds, according to its 2013 complaint data.

Of those, only two cases were substantiated, and for the vast majority – more than 60% of the allegations from that year – there was not enough evidence to determine what happened.

Bratton said two officers involved in the incident have been assigned to desk duty until the investigation is complete.

Lawsuit seeking disciplinary records of cop who put Eric Garner in fatal chokehold tossed

The state's highest court has rejected a lawsuit demanding the disciplinary records of the police officer who put Eric Garner in a banned chokehold moments before the Staten Island man said he couldn't breathe and died.

Legal Aid's lawsuit sought Officer Daniel Pantaleo's disciplinary history. Pantaleo used the chokehold to subdue Garner on July 17, 2014, while arresting him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. The Civilian Complaint Review Board was also named in the complaint.

The 43-year-old Garner died after repeating "I can't breathe." His death helped spark the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement.

"This decision is regrettable but not a surprise given the leak of Officer Daniel Pantaleo's CCRB history earlier this year," said Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney with Legal Aid's criminal special litigation unit.

"We have several other strong '50-a' cases percolating and we do believe that the Court of Appeals, in one case or another, will rule clarifying the City's overly broad interpretation of the law," Conti-Cook said.

The ThinkProgress website published parts of Pantaleo's civilian complaint history in March, showing he had seven prior complaints with 14 individual allegations.

Eric Garner ɼhokehold' death: History repeats itself as another grand jury decides not to indict police officer involved in killing of unarmed black man

In July, Eric Garner died in New York after a police officer restrained him in a chokehold. The whole incident was filmed. But, like in the similar case in Ferguson, Missouri, the officer won’t be charged

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America is suffering from déjà vu: an unarmed black man is killed by a white police officer and a grand jury, meeting in secret, chooses not to indict. Just nine days after the decision not to charge Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a New York grand jury has declined to indict another officer who was filmed choking an unarmed black man to death.

Eric Garner, who was 43, died on 17 July during an attempted arrest on a Staten Island pavement, after New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold – a move forbidden by the NYPD. Thousands took to the streets of New York and several other US cities on Wednesday night to protest the decision not to bring charges against the officer.

The verdict comes less than a fortnight since a grand jury in St Louis announced it would not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the 9 August killing of Mr Brown, who was 18. It triggered protests across the US and has stoked widespread public anger over the victimisation of black men by police.

The precise details of Mr Brown’s death remain unclear, due to conflicting witness testimony and inconclusive forensic evidence. Yet the incident on Staten Island was captured on video. Mr Garner, who had six children, was confronted by plainclothes officers and accused of illegally selling cigarettes. He denied the accusation, complained of repeated harassment by police, and resisted the officers’ attempts to put his hands behind his back.

Though Mr Garner was unarmed and did not lash out, Officer Pantaleo testified to the grand jury that he put an arm around his neck in a “wrestling move”, designed to unbalance and subdue Mr Garner, who was 6ft 3in and weighed 350lb (159kg). The NYPD banned the use of chokeholds by its officers in 1993, after the tactic was blamed for the deaths of multiple suspects. Mr Garner, who was asthmatic, complained several times that he could not breathe during the struggle, which was recorded by his friend, Ramsey Orta. He died an hour later.

In August, the New York City medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, caused by “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest, and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.” Yet the 23-person grand jury disagreed by an undisclosed majority, deciding that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

1 /10 'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests spread across America

'Hands Up Walk Out' Protests

Officer Pantaleo, 29, remains on suspension pending an internal investigation of the incident, and it is unclear whether he will return to duty. It emerged after Mr Garner’s death that Officer Pantaleo had also been the subject of two previous civil rights lawsuits for false arrests, one of which ended with a $30,000 (£19,000) settlement to the plaintiff from the authorities.

In a statement, Officer Pantaleo said: “I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”

Mr Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, responded by telling NBC: “The time for remorse was when my husband was yelling to breathe. That would have been the time for him to show some remorse or some type of care for another human being’s life.”

Eric Holder, the outgoing US Attorney General, announced on Wednesday that the Justice Department, which is already investigating the Ferguson shooting, was also conducting a federal probe into Mr Garner’s death to determine whether his civil rights had been violated. President Barack Obama said he and Mr Holder were leading an effort to improve relations between the black community and law enforcement officers, including better training for police.

“This is an American problem and not just a black problem or a brown problem,” said Mr Obama. “When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law that’s a problem and it’s my job as president to help solve it.”

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton promised his officers would be retrained in the use of force following Mr Garner’s death. Speaking after the grand jury decision on Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he had warned his own teenage son, who is black, about dealing with the police. “Because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him – as families have all over this city for decades – in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him,” he said.

The mostly peaceful protests over Mr Garner’s death on Wednesday and Thursday were a continuation of those that erupted in the wake of last week’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, which sparked two nights of riots in the fractious St Louis suburb. Protesters vowed a new round of demonstrations in New York, and national civil rights leaders pledged to release a “2015 action plan” to address police accountability.

Meanwhile, the police officer who shot dead 12-year-old Tamir Rice in an Ohio park on 22 November will also face a grand jury investigation. Timothy Loehmann and another officer responded to a 911 call reporting “a guy” pointing a “probably fake” gun. The “guy” was Rice, who was black and had a pellet gun.

New York medical examiner testifies chokehold led to Eric Garner's death

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York City medical examiner who conducted an autopsy on an unarmed black man who was killed during a 2014 arrest said at a hearing on Wednesday that a police officer's chokehold set off a "lethal cascade" of events that ended in the man's death.

Cellphone videos taken by bystanders show Officer Daniel Pantaleo putting his arm around the neck of Eric Garner to subdue and arrest him on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes on a sidewalk of the city's Staten Island borough.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is conducting a disciplinary trial for Pantaleo that could lead to his dismissal, nearly five years after Garner's death. The department has banned officers from using chokeholds for decades, saying the maneuver is too risky.

"In my opinion, that's a chokehold," Dr. Floriana Persechino, the medical examiner, said after video footage of the arrest was put on pause during the hearing. She said the chokehold would have been painful and constricted Garner's airways, triggering "a lethal cascade of events" that led to his death.

Video of the arrest sparked a national outcry over policing tactics used against black men. Garner's dying refrain of "I can't breathe!" became a rallying cry in the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Using a green laser pointer, Persechino explained that the autopsy photographs showed a band of ruptured blood vessels in the muscles in the front of Garner's neck, and said they were caused by pressure from Pantaleo's forearm.

In hearings this week at the NYPD's headquarters in Manhattan, prosecutors from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent city agency with oversight powers over the NYPD, have said that Pantaleo should be fired.


Pantaleo's lawyers have argued that he did not use a chokehold, but instead used an authorized "seatbelt" hold that slipped as Garner struggled, and said that the officer did not cause Garner's death.

Persechino agreed with one of Pantaleo's lawyers, Stuart London, that the chokehold was not the sole cause of death.

A summary of her findings shared with reporters in 2014 and repeated in Wednesday's hearing ruled that the cause of death was: "Compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

It also said that Garner's asthma, obesity and high blood pressure were "contributing conditions." Garner was 43 when he died.

London, Pantaleo's lawyer, tore up a copy of that report at an earlier hearing, saying it was wrong and that Garner caused his own death in part by resisting arrest despite being in poor health.

London sought to undermine the medical examiner's ruling on Wednesday by noting that Persechino found no external abrasions on Garner's neck and that small bones and cartilage in his neck were not fractured.

Persechino said forearms, being soft and broad, often do not leave external marks in a chokehold, and that she saw fractured neck bones or cartilage in only a minority of choking and strangling cases.

In this week's hearings, several of Pantaleo's colleagues, including investigators in the police department's Internal Affairs Bureau and an officer who oversees cadet training, say the videos show Pantaleo used a chokehold.

Pantaleo, who has been assigned to a desk job since Garner's death, has sat silently by his lawyers during the hearings, dressed in a dark suit.

An NYPD judge overseeing the hearing will make a ruling at the trial's end, but the ultimate decision about Pantaleo's fate will be made by Police Commissioner James O'Neill.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York Editing by Frank McGurty, Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler)

Man’s Death After Chokehold Raises Old Issue for the Police

The 350-pound man, about to be arrested on charges of illegally selling cigarettes, was arguing with the police. When an officer tried to handcuff him, the man pulled free. The officer immediately threw his arm around the man’s neck and pulled him to the ground, holding him in what appears, in a video, to be a chokehold. The man can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” over and over again as other officers swarm about.

Now, the death of the man, Eric Garner, 43, soon after the confrontation on Thursday on Staten Island, is being investigated by the police and prosecutors. At the center of the inquiry is the officer’s use of a chokehold — a dangerous maneuver that was banned by the New York Police Department more than 20 years ago but that the department cannot seem to be rid of.

“As defined in the department’s patrol guide, this would appear to have been a chokehold,” the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, said at a news conference in City Hall on Friday afternoon.

He referred to police rules that forbid chokeholds and define them as including “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent city agency that investigates allegations of police abuse, logged 233 allegations involving chokeholds in 2013, making up 4.4 percent of the excessive-force complaints it received. Although only a tiny fraction of the chokehold complaints that the agency receives are ever substantiated, the number of complaints has generally been rising.

A decade ago, when the review board was receiving a comparable number of force complaints, chokehold allegations were less frequent. They made up 2.3 percent of the excessive-force complaints in 2003, and no more than 2.7 percent in 2004.

“My throat was on his forearm,” one man who was arrested in Queens testified in April in an internal police disciplinary proceeding, describing how he “could barely breathe” after an officer allegedly placed him in a chokehold.


It is unclear if the chokehold contributed to the death on Thursday afternoon of Mr. Garner, who was at least 6 feet 3 inches tall and who, friends said, had several health issues: diabetes, sleep apnea, and asthma so severe that he had to quit his job as a horticulturist for the city’s parks department. He wheezed when he talked and could not walk a block without resting, they said.

Nonetheless, the use of a chokehold in subduing a large but unarmed man during a low-level arrest raises for Mr. Bratton the same questions about police training and tactics that he faced 20 years ago, in his first stint as New York City’s police commissioner.

In 1994, the year after the Police Department banned chokeholds, a man named Anthony Baez died in the Bronx after a police officer put him in a chokehold during a dispute over a touch football game.

At City Hall on Friday, Mr. Bratton said he did not believe that the use of chokeholds by police officers in New York City was a widespread problem, saying this was his “first exposure” to the issue since returning as police commissioner in January.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, standing next to Mr. Bratton, said, “Like so many New Yorkers I was very troubled by the video,” referring to a bystander’s recording of the incident, which was posted on the website of The New York Daily News. The two police officers who initially confronted Mr. Garner have been temporarily taken off patrol duty. The police declined to name the officers but said one of them had been on the force for eight years and the other for four years.

Late Friday, the mayor’s office announced that Mr. de Blasio was postponing his family’s departure on a planned vacation to Italy from Friday evening until Saturday. The postponement was to allow Mr. de Blasio to spend more time making calls to elected officials, community leaders and members of the clergy, and talking to the police, about Mr. Garner’s death, the mayor’s press secretary, Phil Walzak, said.

The encounter between Mr. Garner and plainclothes officers, from the 120th Precinct, began after the officers accused Mr. Garner of illegally selling cigarettes, an accusation he was familiar with. He had been arrested more than 30 times, often accused of selling loose cigarettes bought outside the state, a common hustle designed to avoid state and city tobacco taxes. In March and again in May, he was arrested on charges of illegally selling cigarettes on the sidewalk.

For years, Mr. Garner chafed at the scrutiny by the police, which he considered harassment. In 2007, he filed a handwritten complaint in federal court accusing a police officer of conducting a cavity search of him on the street, “digging his fingers in my rectum in the middle of the street” while people passed by.

More recently, Mr. Garner told lawyers at Legal Aid that he intended to take all the cases against him to trial. “He was adamant he wouldn’t plead guilty to anything,” said Christopher Pisciotta, the lawyer in charge of the Staten Island office of Legal Aid.

Despite all the scrutiny from the police, most days Mr. Garner, a father of six, would stand on Bay Street, in the Tompkinsville neighborhood, his ankles visibly swollen, hawking loose Lucky cigarettes for 50 cents each.

On Thursday, when officers confronted him nearby and accused him of selling tobacco to a man in a red shirt, Mr. Garner reacted with exasperation, suggesting he was not going to cooperate. “I’m tired of it,” he said. “This stops today.”

“I didn’t do nothing,” Mr. Garner tells an officer. “Every time you see me, you want to harass me, you want to stop me.”

At one point he has his hands on his hips at other points he is gesturing energetically. “Please just leave me alone,” he says. In the video, Mr. Garner can be seen crawling forward on the ground as an officer hangs on with his arm around Mr. Garner’s neck. Other officers surround Mr. Garner.

Soon, the officer releases his grip around Mr. Garner’s neck and, kneeling, presses Mr. Garner’s head into the sidewalk.

Mr. Garner was pronounced dead a short time later at Richmond University Medical Center.

Mr. Pisciotta, the Legal Aid lawyer who knew Mr. Garner as a frequent client, said he was struck by how quickly the officers resorted to putting “him into a chokehold,” perhaps in reaction to Mr. Garner’s formidable size.

Mr. Pisciotta said that Mr. Garner, however imposing his appearance, was “a gentle giant,” who was known for breaking up fights.

“To me it looks like they saw a mountain of a man and they decided to take him down using immediate and significant force,” Mr. Pisciotta said.

On Friday, a woman at Mr. Garner’s home, who identified herself as a cousin named Stephanie, said: “The family is very, very sad. We’re in shock. Why did they have to grab him like that?”

Where Eric Garner died, changes in NYPD policing win little applause

NEW YORK (AP) — A police cruiser constantly sits a few feet from a small floral memorial to Eric Garner on the Staten Island sidewalk where he spent his dying moments five years ago.

Tompkinsville Park, which police were targeting for patrols when they encountered Garner selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, remains a gathering place for desperate people.

Expletives flew on a recent hot afternoon as park regulars discussed everything from drugs and mental illness to jail conditions and the bail paid so they could sit on a park bench.

It was the day after Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced his decision to fire the white officer who put Garner in a chokehold, hastening his death and making the man’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

On Wednesday, the police department said it had resolved a disciplinary case against a supervisor who responded to the chaotic scene.

“If the police are here, they just move to the other side of the park and do their business there,” said longtime resident Lisa Soto, taking a long drag from a cigarette. “They sell everything here. Nothing has changed.”

That may be, some residents say, because police officers are now much more careful about how they interact with people — more cautious when dealing with suspects and less likely to bother with the kind of nuisance enforcement that was a priority five years ago.

“When you give a lot of leeway like that, the place becomes lawless,” said resident Doug Brinson. “It’s been lawless for five years. Five years people do what they want to do on this block. Five years straight.”

Bert Bernan, a former construction worker on disability, said respect for the police has plummeted and he sees crime as having risen in the neighborhood where he grew up in the 1960s.

“I remember, me and my friends, if we were goofing off on the corner and the cop waved a nightstick at you, you knew, get the hell off the corner and don’t give him any lip,” Bernan said. “Back then, you didn’t have hoodlums hanging out on street corners what we have here is a disgrace.”

Police statistics show crime is down in the precinct where the neighborhood is located. Through second week of August last year, for example, there were 186 reported robberies or burglaries and 199 felony assaults. This year there have been 97 robberies or burglaries and 178 assaults.

Garner’s death five summers ago was an inflection point for the New York Police Department. Caught on video, the fatal encounter between Garner, a black man, and Officer Daniel Pantaleo led the nation’s largest police force to train officers to de-escalate confrontations and to reassess how they interact with the public.

A bystander’s cellphone video showed Pantaleo wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck and taking him to the ground with a banned chokehold near where the Staten Island Ferry takes commuters and tourists to and from Manhattan.

After Garner’s death, the police department required all 36,000 officers to undergo three days of training, including classes focused on de-escalation. Last year, it began training officers on fair and impartial policing, teaching them to recognize biases and rely on facts, not racial stereotypes.

In March, it finished outfitting all patrol officers with body cameras. And the department now requires officers to detail the actions they took each time they used force — not just when they fired their gun.

Following a court ruling and a policy shift, the city dramatically reduced officers’ use of stop and frisk, a practice in which officers stop people on the streets and search them for weapons. In 2011, the NYPD reported 685,724 such stops. Last year, there were about 11,000.

“That has led to hundreds of thousands of fewer police-civilian encounters, each of which has the potential to escalate into something like what happened to Eric Garner,” said Christopher Dunn, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said his priority for the department is to ensure something like Garner’s death never happens again.

“The NYPD of today is a different institution than it was just a few years ago,” de Blasio said Monday after the department fired Pantaleo.

“I know the NYPD has changed profoundly. I know that members of the NYPD learned the lessons of this tragedy. They acted on it, they did something about it. It is a beginning, but we have a lot more to do, and the change has to get deeper and deeper. And that is not a top-down enterprise — that is for all of us to do.”

In his reaction to Pantaleo’s firing, the head of the city’s main police union noted a retreat some Staten Island residents say they’re already seeing.

“Right now, nothing’s really getting enforced,” said Pat Lynch, the head of the Police Benevolent Association. “What’s happening is, the public calls 911 and we respond. Quality-of-life issues are not being enforced. If it is enforced, the district attorneys’ offices are throwing them out and downgrading them. The message is clear: Don’t go out and do your job.”

In the years since Garner’s death, use-of-force complaints against the NYPD have fallen sharply, according to data compiled by the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board. In 2014, there were 2,412. In 2018, there were 1,752, marking a 27% drop.

A study released in February showed the NYPD had been sued for misconduct 10,656 times in the last five years and paid $361.5 million in settlements. The city paid Garner’s family $5.9 million in 2015 to settle a wrongful death claim.

O’Neill, who ascended to the post in 2016, led the department’s shift from the “broken windows” theory of policing, embraced by his predecessor Bill Bratton, that viewed low-level offenses such as selling loose cigarettes and jumping subway turnstiles as a gateway to bigger crimes.

O’Neill, who was the department’s chief of patrol at the time of Garner’s death, implemented a neighborhood policing model as commissioner that is designed to give patrol officers more time to walk around and interact with people in the communities they police rather than staying in their cars and responding only to 911 calls.

But critics say that “broken windows” theory hasn’t gone away, and that officers are finding new low-level targets, such as immigrant delivery people who get around on electric bikes. And while the use of stop and frisk has dropped significantly, statistics show the same racial disparities exist.

Since Garner’s death, the police department has also gotten cagier about officer discipline and hasn’t always provided the public with the names of officers involved in shootings, critics say.

“They’ve gone backward, and we would argue that in some cases especially around police transparency they’ve gone backward by decades,” said Joo-Hyun Kang, the director of Communities United for Police Reform.

The NYPD has retreated in recent years from disclosing punishment details in most disciplinary cases, citing a state law that keeps personnel records secret. O’Neill has said he supports changing the law. The union opposes changes.

Associated Press video journalist David R. Martin contributed to this report.

Left: NYPD officers stand guard as people attend a press conference of Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner outside Police Headquarters in New York, on August 19, 2019. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters