TOMPKINSVILLE (WABC) –
While the investigation continues into the death of the man who appeared to be held in a chokehold as police attempted to arrest him last week, more outrage is being expressed by Eric Garner’s family and by those who witnessed the events that day.
The mother of Garner’s youngest child, who is just 3 months old, says she can’t bear to watch the videos of the incident.
“It’s murder. It’s murder,” Jewel Miller said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today told reporters that – as a layman – he thought a chokehold had been employed by a cop during a controversial caught-on-camera incident on Staten Island on Thursday.
“As an individual who’s not expert in law enforcement, it looked like a chokehold to me. But I also emphasize you have a full investigation because all sides need to be heard and all evidence has to be looked at,” de Blasio told reporters trailing him on vacation in Italy. Audio was provided to reporters in New York by the mayor’s office.
The mayor left on Saturday night, after postponing his departure for a day to deal with the developing firestorm over the death Thursday of Eric Garner, 43. Cops were in the process of busting Garner on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes – called “loosies” – when one came up behind Garner and reached around his neck.
The cop who put his arm around Garner’s neck has been stripped of his shield and gun pending the outcome of probes by the DA and Internal Affairs. Another cop has been reassigned to desk duty but still has his gun and badge. Four EMS workers who responded have also been put on restricted duty while their work is scrutinized.
Garner, an asthmatic, was pronounced dead an hour after his arrest. Authorities said he died of a heart attack, but autopsy results have yet to be released.
“The ambulance was right down the block, but the police said ‘not yet,’” explained Giordio Dano.
Dano just happens to be a registered nurse and was down the block Thursday afternoon when he spotted a commotion on the Staten Island sidewalk.
After a second video surfaced showing Garner’s lifeless body on the ground unaided for several minutes, 4 emergency workers employed by Richmond University Medical Center were also disciplined amid questions about their lack of medical response. It’s not until a few minutes into the second video that a female technician finally takes Garner’s pulse and tells him they’re going to get help.
Dano says he can’t believe what he saw.
“I would have flipped him over, checked his pulse and performed CPR, and get the ambulance here right away,” he said.
The woman who shot the seven minute long video also expressed frustration.
“He was on the ground for a good ten minutes, no response whatsoever. When they put him in the gurney and put him to the side, EMS was stopped right there because they were trying to work on him,” said Taisha Allen.
Witnesses say they pleaded with EMS workers to do more than check Garner’s vital signs.
“We even screamed at them and told them, why are they concerned with putting him in the ambulance when they can do CPR right then and there,” said witness Ramsey Orta. Orta recorded recorded Garner’s arrest and takedown on his cellphone.
Several minutes had gone by before he says Garner was taken away on a gurney.
Previously, the NYPD took the gun and badge away from the officer who placed 43-year old Garner in the apparent chokehold. That Officer Daniel Pantaleo, an 8-year veteran, has been placed on “modified assignment,” pending the outcome of the dual probes by the district attorney and Internal Affairs.
Garner was confronted by police trying to arrest him on suspicion of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk, authorities said. The 6-foot-3, 350-pound Garner became irate, denying the charges and refusing to be handcuffed. A partial video of the encounter obtained by the New York Daily News shows one officer wrap his arm around Garner’s neck as he is taken to the ground.
Asked about the ongoing probe and controversy de Blasio left behind in New York, the mayor said: “There’s an internal process and I respect that process. The fact is that Commissioner (Bill) Bratton acted, having looked at the facts. It’s quite clear the chokehold has been prohibited for decades, but I leave the specific actions within the police department to Commissioner Bratton. I have absolute faith in his judgment. I think the actions that have been taken show that there is a serious commitment to a full investigation.”
Meanwhile, a group of demonstrators, known as “New Yorkers Against Bratton,” held a small protest Monday outside City Hall to call for the resignation of the police commissioner over the death of Garner.
In the video obtained by the Daily News, Garner, who has been arrested for selling illegal cigarettes numerous times in recent years, says 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.”
As four officers bring him down, Garner is heard gasping, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” The video shows one officer using his hands to push Garner’s face into the sidewalk.
Garner’s family, along with Sharpton and his National Action Network, claim Garner repeatedly said he could not breathe while officers used excessive force to hold him down. Then he fell unconscious. Garner went into cardiac arrest and was transported by EMS to Richmond University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
A funeral for Garner, who went by the nickname Big E, will be held Wednesday at the Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Another rally on Staten Island is planned for Saturday afternoon.
A makeshift memorial has been set up at the spot in Tompkinsville where Garner was confronted by police.
(Some information from the Associated Press.)