An obese Staten Island man who passed out during an arrest on charges of illegally selling cigarettes died as a result of “homicide by chokehold,” the medical examiner concluded in a report released Friday.
The autopsy revealed that Eric Garner, 43, died of a “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” according to the New York Post.
The report also said Garner’s weight, at 350 pounds, and his poor health may have factored in his death, calling his obesity, asthma and cardiovascular disease “contributing conditions.”
Garner, a father of six, was suspected of illegally selling cigarettes on July 17 when New York City police officers tackled him outside a convenience store he owned, the New York Post reported.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo then put Garner in a chokehold, which is prohibited under department policies. The big man struggled against the restraint, repeatedly shouting, “I can’t breathe!” according to cellphone video footage recorded by bystanders.
Pantaleo has not been charged with a crime, but he has been put on modified duty pending the outcome of the investigation, according to the Post. The case has been handed over to Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. for a decision on whether the officer will face charges.
Donovan could have an uphill battle in making a case against Pantaleo, according to one police source.
“It’s going to be a tough case to prove intent,” the source told the Post. “He was acting within the scope of a police officer. They may charge him and convict him on a lower charge if they can prove his actions were reckless.”
Garner’s grieving family members said they are “very, very satisfied” with the homicide ruling, according to the Post, although the victim’s son said it only provides them modest comfort.
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