The death on Friday of a New York City man after an apparent chokehold on the part of police has prompted an investigation by the Staten Island District Attorney's office and caused Mayor Bill de Blasio to postpone a vacation while he talks with community leaders.
A passerby captured the interaction between Eric Garner, 43, and police on video, and the tape shows Garner saying at least eight times "I can't breathe" as police appear to push his head into the ground. Garner, an asthmatic who weighed between 350 and 400 pounds, later died.
Police said Garner was resisting arrest and they suspected him of attempting to sell untaxed cigarettes. Witnesses told the Staten Island Advance that he'd just broken up a fight.
A representative in NYPD's press room referred all questions to a press conference earlier Friday by de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton.
During the press conference, de Blasio called the death of Garner, a married father of six and grandfather of two, "a terrible tragedy."
"Chokeholds are prohibited by the New York City Police Department and by most departments," Bratton said during the press conference.
Along with the district attorney, police internal affairs also will investigate, Bratton and de Blasio said.
In the videotape, Garner is seen standing on a sidewalk in front of a store as two undercover officers appear to question him.
"Every time you see me, you're messing with me – I'm tired of it," Garner says. "I'm minding my business officer, I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone."
The conversation continues until Garner says, "Don't touch me," at which point an officer behind Garner appears to put him in a chokehold. Garner sinks quickly to the ground and four officers are on him, subduing him.
Garner says "I can't breathe" at least eight times as an officer appears to mash his head into the sidewalk.
Police called paramedics and Garner died of cardiac arrest at Richmond University Medical Center, in Staten Island, the NY Daily News reported.
"When I kissed my husband this morning, I never thought it would be for the last time," Esaw Garner, Eric Garner's wife, told the NY Daily News.
Some residents told Newsday that the incident was an example of racism. Garner was black. The officers who held him down are white.
Police said Garner had a history of arrests for selling untaxed cigarettes, according to the NY Daily News.
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement shared with Newsday, "Not wanting to be arrested does not grant an individual the right to resist arrest nor does it free the officers of the obligation to make the arrest. In these cases, justice for all involved demands a complete and thorough investigation of all the facts before any conclusions are drawn."