A New York City man died Thursday after a police officer appeared to put him in a chokehold in an incident that was captured on video.
Eric Garner, 43, died of an apparent heart attack after police in Staten Island attempted to arrest him on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes, a spokesperson for the New York City Police Department told TIME.
In the graphic video, obtained by the New York Daily News, Garner can be heard complaining that he can’t breathe and at one point appears to fall unconscious as police attempt to tackle him. The officer who appears to put a chokehold around Garner also appears to push his head into the ground.
Two officers, with eight and four years of experience in the Department respectively, have been placed on desk duty, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a Friday news conference. He said the police officer in the video did appear to use a chokehold, which he said is “prohibited by the department.” Prosecutors and the department’s internal affairs have opened probes into the incident.
Bratton, who was hired this year by Mayor Bill de Blasio with a goal in part of improving police-community relations, called Garner’s death a “tragedy for all involved.”
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Garner, who died yesterday afternoon while being placed in police custody,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We are harnessing all resources available to the City to ensure a full and thorough investigation of the circumstances of this tragic incident.”
In the video, a frustrated Garner denies having done anything wrong. “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me,” says Garner, who has been arrested 31 times for charges including drug possession and selling untaxed cigarettes, according to the Associated Press. “I’m tired of it. It stops today…. I’m minding my business please just leave me alone.”
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