Eric Garner in police chokehold

New York Medical Examiner Rules Garner’s Death was
a Homicide Caused by an Illegal NYPD Chokehold

(New York, NY) On Friday, the New York City Medical Examiner ruled that the death of Eric Garner — the African-American Staten Island man who was the victim of a violent, videotaped assault by New York City police officers — was a homicide caused by the illegal chokehold and chest compression to which Mr. Garner was subjected by the NYPD. 

In light of this official finding, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) calls on Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan to immediately charge the police officers involved in the senseless death of Mr. Garner with homicide.  Additionally, LDF demands that Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton scrutinize the training, policies and practices of the New York City Police Department and end the so-called “broken windows” policing policy to ensure that, in the words of Mr. Garner, “this stops today.”  

“The police officers involved in this homicide must be held accountable for Mr. Garner’s death and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF.  “The autopsy report has confirmed what New Yorkers and, indeed, people throughout the world saw on the videotape: Mr. Garner was choked to death by the police for no discernible reason. The New York City Police Department’s patrol guide clearly and unequivocally bans the use of ‘any pressure to the throat or windpipe which may prevent or hinder breathing to reduce intakes of air.’  Yet the video of the violent police encounter with Mr. Garner leaves no doubt that the patrol guide’s mandate was flagrantly violated and that not one police officer on the scene intervened or otherwise sought to ensure Mr. Garner’s safety.”

The killing of Mr. Garner is the latest example of how the over-aggressive policing of non-violent, minor crime hurts Black and Latina/o New Yorkers and undermines confidence in the police within communities of color, said Christina Swarns, LDF’s Litigation Director.

 “Mr. Garner now joins Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Anthony Baez, Mohamed Beh and the dozens of other Black men who were senselessly killed by members of the NYPD as another painful example of how ‘broken windows’ policing – which prioritizes the enforcement of minor, quality-of-life crimes, like the sale of untaxed cigarettes – too often translates into the brutal and discriminatory policing of black and brown New Yorkers and the tragic deaths of innocent people,” Swarns said.

Thus, not only must the officers involved in the homicide of Mr. Garner be brought to justice, but the NYPD’s policies and practices must be examined and changed to ensure that no more innocent New Yorkers die at the hands of the police.

“Proper training is critical,” said Ifill,” but the Mayor and the Commissioner must also confront the culture within the NYPD that allowed Mr. Garner to be brutalized and killed by the conduct of not one, but many, on-duty police officers. New Yorkers are fed-up with the culture of violence and racial discrimination within the NYPD. The District Attorney, the Mayor and the Police Commissioner must make clear that the lives of all New Yorkers – regardless of their race — are valued equally and will be treated fairly.”