An unarmed 43-year-old father of six from Staten Island died yesterday after at least five NYPD officers choked and smothered him during an arrest. Eric Garner, who suffered from chronic asthma, diabetes, and sleep apnea, was about six-foot-four, 400 pounds, the Daily News reports, and had a history of arrests for selling untaxed cigarettes. “I’m minding my business,” he says when confronted in the deeply disturbing video shot by a neighbor. “Are you serious? I didn’t do nothin’. What’d I do?”
“Every time you see me, you’re messing with me. I’m tired of it. This stops today,” says Garner. “Every time you see me, you wanna harass me. I told you last time, please just leave me alone.”
When the officers move to arrest him, Garner struggles until he’s choked from behind by a man not in uniform, who then pushes Garner’s head into the concrete. “I can’t breathe!” says Garner in a muffled scream. “I can’t breathe!” He repeats it over and over again, at least nine times audibly. Witnesses say the incident started when Garner tried to break up a fight.
An NYPD spokesperson would only tell the Daily News that Garner “was being placed in custody, went into cardiac arrest and died.” Internal affairs has launched an investigation, with Garner’s wife saying a detective has been in touch. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he said, noting that he was involved “because there is wrongdoing.” That much seems obvious.
Update: In a very un-Bloomberg move, the mayor has taken to Twitter to acknowledge the incident.
His full statement:
On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Garner, who died yesterday afternoon while being placed in police custody. We have a responsibility to keep every New Yorker safe, and that includes when individuals are in custody of the NYPD. That is a responsibility that Police Commissioner Bratton and I take very seriously. We are harnessing all resources available to the City to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances of this tragic incident. The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau is working closely with the Office of the Richmond County District Attorney, which is leading this investigation.
Update II: At a press conference today, Mayor de Blasio said he was “deeply troubled” after watching the Garner video.