The NYC Medical Examiner has finally released its conclusion on the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after police put him in a choke hold during his arrest last month. Though there was early speculation that perhaps Garner died from cardiac arrest, and not the chokehold, the report concludes Garner died from "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."
Contributing conditions, according to the ME, were "acute and chronic bronchial asthma; Obesity; Hypertensive cardiovascular disease." The report concludes that Garner's death was a homicide.
Garner's death has prompted widespread outrage and promises from NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton to retrain all NYPD officers. Chokeholds have been prohibited by the NYPD since 1993, but police continue to use them. A year after the ban went into effect, an NYPD officer killed 29-year-old Anthony Baez with an illegal choke hold during an argument sparked by Baez’s football hitting a cop car.
And three days before Garner's death, another officer was caught on video appearing to put a suspect in a chokehold. Last weekend, an officer allegedly put a pregnant woman in a chokehold outside her Brooklyn home.
Police say Garner had been selling illegal untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk and that they were responding to a complaint about his behavior. The fatal arrest was captured on video by a witness, and raised questions about how Garner's death would have been handled if not for the documentation. The first police report about the incident, for instance, makes no mention of the use of a chokehold.
Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who put Garner in the chokehold, has been stripped of his gun and badge and placed on modified duty pending the outcome of the investigation. The EMTs who lackadaisically responded to an unresponsive Garner have been suspended. Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised a full investigation into Garner's death.
UPDATE: Here's Mayor de Blasio's statement:
"On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Eric Garner, on this day we have received the Medical Examiner’s findings concerning the cause of his death. My administration will continue to work with all involved authorities, including the Richmond County District Attorney, to ensure a fair and justified outcome. “We all have a responsibility to work together to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust and create a culture where the police department and the communities they protect respect each other—and that’s a responsibility that Commissioner Bratton and I take very seriously. I’ve said that we would make change, and we will. As Mayor, I remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the proper reforms are enacted to ensure that this won’t happen again. “I’d also like to thank the Office of Chief Medical Examiner for conducting a thorough and expeditious review of the cause of death in this tragic incident.”