4 EMS Workers Suspended Without Pay in Chokehold Arrest

New video shows there was no apparent attempt to administer CPR on Eric Garner as he lay on the ground unmoving

Four EMS workers who responded to the arrest of a man who later died in police custody have been suspended without pay two days after an eight-year veteran of the NYPD was stripped of his badge and gun for allegedly using a chokehold while handcuffing the man.

The EMS workers, who have not been identified, included two EMTs and two paramedics. The workers are not city employees but work for Richmond University Medical Center, according to the FDNY. They were first placed on modified duty, and then hospital officials announced Monday the workers were being suspended and would not be allowed to work at the hospital or throughout the 911 system. 
Cellphone video captured the arrest of 43-year-old Eric Garner Thursday evening, and showed him saying "I can't breathe, I can't breathe" as he was brought to the ground by an officer using a chokehold, a tactic prohibited by NYPD policy.
A friend of the victim showed NBC 4 New York new cellphone video Monday that showed the response moments later as Garner lay on the ground, not moving: the paramedics, EMTs and police peer over Garner, and none administer CPR. 
"I was distraught, I was upset and mad that the cops had him on the floor like that," said Taisha Allen, who recorded the video. "And they should have performed CPR on him and they didn't." 
Allen, who said she's been friends with Garner for years, began recording when police first confronted Garner about allegedly selling loosies -- single cigarettes -- on Victory Boulevard and Bay Street in Tompkinsville. She then watched him collapse.
"His head hit the concrete. His eyes rolled back in his head. And he kept saying he can't breathe, and didn't breathe anymore. And saliva came out of his mouth with blood," said Allen. 

The new video adds to the growing investigation into the arrest. On Saturday, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was placed on modified assignment. Officials said another officer involved in the arrest, a four-year veteran of the force identified as Justin Damico, had been put on administrative duty but didn't have to surrender his gun or shield.

Richmond University Medical Center said in a statement that the hospital is evaluating the EMT workers' response and investigating the case through a quality assurance process. No one answered the door at the home of one of the two EMTs who have been placed on modified assignment.

Autopsy results, including a cause and manner of death for Garner, are still pending. His funeral is scheduled to be held at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn Wednesday evening, with the Rev. Al Sharpton slated to speak. 

The original video capturing Garner's death sparked community outrage. The Bay Street scene of Garner's arrest has become a memorial, and on Monday, girlfriend Jewel Miller visited the scene along with their 3-month-old daughter Legacy.

"They watched him die. They murdered him. All of them, the cops, the EMS, all of them," she said. "They murdered him." 

At several protests, local leaders and activists vowed to pressure prosecutors for answers, and referenced past cases involving minority men and women who died while being taken into custody by police, including Sean Bell and Anthony Baez, who died after being physically restrained by an arresting officer 20 years ago.  

Earlier in the weekend, Sharpton rallied with supporters and Garner's family. 

"The issue is not whether one was selling cigarettes. The issue was how an unarmed man was subjected to a chokehold, and the result is he is no longer with us," Sharpton said after leading the crowd in chants of "no justice, no peace."

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said in a statement that the NYPD's decision regarding Pantaleo was politically motivated.

"The department’s modification of this police officer under these circumstances is a completely unwarranted, knee-jerk reaction for political reasons and nothing more," Lynch said. "It is a decision by the department that effectively pre-judges this case and denies the officer the very benefit of a doubt that has long been part of the social contract that allows police officers to face the risks of this difficult and complex job."

Mayor de Blasio has said he was "very troubled" by the video.

"It is too early to jump to any conclusions about this case -- we must wait for all the facts and details of the incident to emerge," de Blasio said following Garner's death.

On Sunday, while on vacation in Italy, de Blasio received a briefing from administration officials about the ongoing investigation and the administration's community efforts, his office said.

Court records show that within the past two years, three men sued Pantaleo in federal court over allegedly unlawful, racially motivated arrests. Pantaleo did not return a telephone message. 

The office of U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said it is monitoring the case.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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