Nearly a year before asthmatic Eric Garner died when police put him in a chokehold during an arrest, cops failed to try to save the life of a man who suffered an asthma attack during an arrest for allegedly selling MetroCard swipes, according to a lawsuit and recently-released video.
Cops attempted to arrest Barrington Williams, 25, on September 17, 2013, after they allegedly caught him selling illegal MetroCard swipes at the Yankee Stadium subway station. Video recently obtained by the News shows cops tackling Williams and restraining him. After a few moments, he appears to go into cardiac arrest—cops do not appear to administer any chest compressions or other lifesaving techniques.
Williams, who did not receive CPR (which was administered by an FDNY medic) until about 10 minutes after he fell unconscious, was later pronounced dead at Lincoln Hospital, and an eventual autopsy revealed he died of a severe asthma attack. According to a 2013 report from the Village Voice, police initially reported that they chased Williams through the station and eventually restrained him, whereupon he became "unconscious and unresponsive."
In 2015, Williams's mother, Karen Brown, filed a lawsuit alleging that Williams died thanks to cops' use of "excessive force" during the arrest and "deliberate indifference" to Williams's signs of distress. A filing in Manhattan Federal Court from September argues that the police "constituted an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain and terror repugnant to the conscience of mankind," and "were presented with a realistic opportunity to prevent and/or mitigate" Williams's injuries and subsequent death, but failed to do so.
The recently released surveillance video helps her case, according to attorney Jason Leventhal. "For 10 minutes the officers were indifferent and apathetic to Barrington’s life, and those 10 minutes can be the difference between life and death," he told the News.
Though the video does show police attempting to prop Williams up and give him his inhaler, Leventhal says Williams's physical reaction merited an emergency response from police. "I think the officers realized very quickly that they were dealing with a man who was in severe respiratory distress. The video doesn’t show any sense of urgency," he said.
Officers Joel Guach, Agenol Ramos and Robert O’Brien were named in the suit. The NYPD has not yet commented on the litigation.