Medical Examiner Rules Eric Garner's Death a Homicide, Says He Was Killed By Chokehold

The city medical examiner has ruled the death of Eric Garner, the 43-year-old father whose death in police custody sparked national outrage, a homicide, saying a chokehold killed him.

The medical examiner said compression of the neck and chest, along with Garner's positioning on the ground while being restrained by police during the July 17 stop on Staten Island, caused his death.

Garner's acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypertensive cardiovascular disease were contributing factors, the medical examiner determined.

On Saturday, Garner's widow called on prosecutors to take action.  

"I just want them to do the right thing and get justice for my husband," Esaw Garner said at a Harlem rally, where supporters pressed for an arrest in the case.

A spokesman for Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, who's leading the investigation in the case, said his office had been contacted with the cause and manner of Garner's death but was waiting for the official death certificate and the autopsy report to be issued.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton also said he received the medical examiner's report and that the department will continue to cooperate with district attorney's office. He has previously said he ordered a top-to-bottom redesigning of use-of-force training in the NYPD.  

An amateur video taken during Garner's arrest shows a plainclothes police officer placing him in what appears be a chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy. In the video, Garner can be heard multiple times gasping, "I can't breathe!"

After receiving the medical examiner's findings, Mayor de Blasio released a statement expressing his sympathies to Garner's family and said his administration will continue to work with the Staten Island district attorney and other authorities "to ensure a fair and justified outcome." 

“We all have a responsibility to work together to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust and create a culture where the police department and the communities they protect respect each other -- and that’s a responsibility that Commissioner Bratton and I take very seriously," he said.

De Blasio said he remained "absolutely committed to ensuring that the proper reforms are enacted to ensure that this won’t happen again."

A day before the autopsy results were released, the mayor hosted a reform talk at City Hall in an attempt to ease tensions with communities of color in the wake of Garner's death. The discussion got heated as the Rev. Al Sharpton criticized Bratton and told the mayor that his son, Dante de Blasio, who is black, would be "a candidate for a chokehold" if he weren't the mayor's son. 

Garner's family members and Sharpton met with federal prosecutors last month to press for an investigation into his death. Sharpton said police violated Garner's civil rights while arresting him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, and that led to his death. 

The U.S. attorney hasn't commented on the meeting with the Garners. Previously, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is "closely monitoring" the investigation into Garner's death. 

Shortly after Garner died, one officer was stripped of his gun and badge pending an internal NYPD investigation and another was placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two EMTs were suspended without pay after allegedly failing to provide CPR in a timely manner.

The president of the police officers' union expressed sympathy to Garner's family and friends and said that "police officers don't start their days expecting or wanting something like this to occur in the performance of their duties."

Pat Lynch of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association went on to say, "We believe, however, that if he had not resisted the lawful order of the police officers placing him under arrest, this tragedy would not have occurred."

The case has incited calls for sweeping police department reform. New alleged chokehold videos have emerged in its wake, including one involving an alleged fare beater and another involving a pregnant Brooklyn woman who claims she was put in a chokehold when she questioned officers' requests to move the site of a barbecue.

In addition to running the National Action Network, Al Sharpton is a talk show host on MSNBC, which is owned by WNBC's parent company, NBCUniversal.

Contact Us