NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The city was in damage control mode Sunday night, after a man died in police custody on Staten Island after an officer apparently put him in a choke hold.
The paramedics and EMTs are all employed by the hospital – where Eric Garner, 43 – was pronounced dead after his arrest on Thursday – but the FDNY oversees 911 calls and thus has the authority to remove them from the field.
“This is a high profile case, so it’s important to look at the response and operation and the paramedics and EMTs have been placed on desk duty until the investigation is complete,” the FDNY said.
The FDNY did not elaborate further why the paramedics and EMTs were placed on desk duty.
Meanwhile, a new video has been released showing Garner apprehended, in handcuffs, and apparently unresponsive on the sidewalk in front of 202 Bay St. in Tompkinsville, Staten Island on Thursday.
As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, in the video, several police officers are seen hovering over Garner’s motionless body, occasionally rifling through his pockets as he lies handcuffed with his head slumping to the concrete.
The officers talk to Garner, check his pulse and empty his pockets.
About four minutes in, an EMT arrives asking the apparently unconscious Garner questions, and an officer tells him to answer but he still does not move, Smith reported.
A couple of minutes later, Garner is lifted onto a stretcher.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, Taisha Allen pulled out her phone to record the video of the father of six in custody.
“It’s crazy, and I was like, ‘Perform CPR on him,’ and they was like, ‘He don’t need CPR, or whatever,’ and that he was not breathing at the time.”
But officers said Garner was breathing.
Police were arresting Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes on the sidewalk. But when 6-foot 3-inch, 350-pound Garner refused to be cuffed, one officer shown in an earlier video jumped onto Garner’s back and appears to put him in a choke hold.
Garner was taken to Richmond University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.
Sources told CBS 2 an ongoing internal police investigation indicated that a preliminary examination of Garner’s body did not show damage to his trachea. But the official manner and cause of death was pending further studies and determination by the New York City Medical Examiner’s office.
Earlier Sunday, the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded justice for Garner, while also saying civilians who kill police officers should be held accountable.
Speaking at Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Dr., three days after Garner’s death, Sharpton questioned why an officer allegedly maintained a choke hold even after the asthmatic said he couldn’t breathe.
“Even if police procedure doesn’t kick in, when does your sense of humanity kick in?” Sharpton said.
Garner died shortly after the incident of cardiac arrest, police said.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the cop linked to the choke hold, has been stripped of his gun and badge while the NYPD continues to investigate. Another officer involved in the takedown was placed on desk duty.
Sharpton said it was equally wrong for a New Jersey man, Lawrence Campbell, to fatally shoot Jersey City cop Melvin Santiago last week. The gunman’s wife said he should have killed more officers.
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch called the decision to strip Pantaleo of his shield a “completely unwarranted, kneejerk reaction for political reasons and nothing more.”
Lynch added that the move denies Pantaleo “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.”
On Saturday, Garner’s friends and family joined Sharpton for a rally at the National Action Network in Harlem, calling for a full investigation — something Mayor de Blasio has vowed the NYPD will conduct.
A second rally was also held at the Mount Sinai Center for Community Enrichment on Jersey Street in Staten Island, followed by a march to the 120th Precinct police station, CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport reported.
“The issue was how an unarmed man was subjected to a choke hold, and the result is he is no longer with us,” Sharpton said at the National Action Network rally.
Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, was set to speak at the National Action Network rally, but found herself too emotional to do so. She collapsed on stage standing next to Sharpton, 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern reported.
Sharpton said Garner’s widow and mother spoke with de Blasio by phone shortly after the rally and told him they want justice.
Though Garner had a record of more than 30 arrests — mostly misdemeanors — for selling illegal cigarettes, his mother said he was never a dangerous person.
“My son never hurted a soul, never,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller.
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