Eric Garner’s chokehold death puts NYC police under microscope

The chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City at the hands of police has stirred the debate about police use of excessive force.

New York City has made national news, but not for positive reasons this time. In July 2014, a passerby took a video shot of an altercation between New York City police and a pedestrian that ended in the civilian's death. The video of police putting 43-year-old Staten Islander Eric Garner in a chokehold has gone viral, igniting demonstrations and heated debate about police-misconduct issues in the Big Apple once again.

The incident has also intensified racial tension in the city, as the victim was black.

According to multiple news sources, Garner, a father and grandfather, was approached by police who questioned him about whether he was illegally selling single cigarettes, a petty offense. When Garner denied wrongdoing and reportedly resisted arrest, an officer put his arm around Garner's neck and brought him to the sidewalk into a continuing hold, during which he repeatedly told officers that he could not breathe. Garner, who reportedly had asthma and was severely overweight, then went still and was later pronounced dead.

The officer who used the hold had his gun and badge taken by the department and was reassigned, and another involved officer is on administrative duty. Emergency medical personnel are also suspended for the incident.

The New York City Police Department has reportedly forbid its officers from using chokeholds for many years. After Garner's death, Police Commissioner William Bratton announced that members of the police force would receive intense, updated training on the appropriate use of force.

The Associated Press reports that local prosecutors are investigating the incident and that the U.S. Justice Department is "closely monitoring" the situation. The AP also says that the video shows the same officer who used the hold pushing Garner's face into the sidewalk.

On August 1, 2014, the medical examiner after an autopsy released its conclusions about Garner's death, calling it a homicide, and that Garner had died from the chokehold, chest compression and "prone positioning during physical restraint."

The public awaits the decision of the local prosecutor about whether to seek charges for a state crime against the police, and of federal officials about whether to bring civil rights violation charges. Depending on the circumstances, Garner's survivors may also decide to bring a civil lawsuit against the officers, police department and city for state claims such as negligence or wrongful death, or for federal civil rights violations.

Seek legal guidance

Any New Yorker who experiences police brutality, mistreatment or harassment; false arrest; or racial profiling or discrimination at the hands of law enforcement should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who has handled cases of excessive force and similar matters involving police. Knowledgeable New York counsel can launch an investigation on behalf of the victim and advise him or her of legal rights and potential legal remedies.

Keywords: Eric Garner, chokehold, death, New York City, police misconduct. force, training, homicide, civil rights, lawsuit, negligence, wrongful death