The office of the New York attorney general has opened an investigation into the death of a Bronx man who went into cardiac arrest after being Tased by police.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told the Times that the investigation was taken under the state's executive order that allows the attorney general to prosecute the cases of unarmed civilians who die during police confrontations.
On Wednesday, November 3rd, police officers responded to a 911 call regarding an emotionally disturbed person "who was armed with a knife and acting violently" at 1840 Mayflower Avenue in Pelham Bay. Three officers and a sergeant found 49-year-old Ariel Galarza, who, according to police, "threatened them with a glass bottle." The sergeant, whose name has not yet been made public, then fired the Taser at Galarza.
A police source said that after being Tased once, Galarza stood up and allegedly tried to fight the officers, prompting the sergeant to use the stun gun a second time. After being Tased twice, Galarza went into cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead at Einstein Hospital.
"He’s not an aggressive guy at all, he’s a real good man," a neighbor of Galarza's told the Daily News after his death. "He works out in Long Island. He cuts cold cuts—he’s a deli guy. He was real good with my son. My son called him ‘Big Buddy.'"
Although police said Galarza was threatening officers with a glass bottle, the investigation suggests that Schneiderman had reasons to doubt that Galarza was armed and dangerous during the altercation.
Sanford Rubenstein, an attorney for Galarza's family, called the investigation a "positive step in the right direction to instill the trust of his family."
"The next step is to convene a grand jury made up of people from the Bronx to determine if this NYPD sergeant should be criminally charged," Rubenstein said.
The executive order that allows Galarza's death to be investigated was implemented in 2015 after a rash of killings by police, including those of Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, and Sean Bell. It was intended to allow independent review of these cases "without conflict or bias."
Last month, Schneiderman announced his office would not investigate a police sergeant who received widespread criticism for fatally shooting Deborah Danner, an emotionally disturbed 66-year-old woman who was allegedly threatening officers with a baseball bat. In that instance, the sergeant had a Taser but used his firearm instead. The AG's office determined the case wasn't in its jurisdiction and the Bronx DA's office is handling the probe.