NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — NYPD procedures have been put under the microscope, and four emergency workers have now been suspended without pay, after a Staten Island man died in police custody last week.
As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, 43-year-old Eric Garner died last Thursday after an arrest in which he was put in a choke hold by an officer.
Officials said Sunday that two EMTs and two paramedics were placed on “modified duty” pending an investigation into Garner’s death.
The Fire Department said the emergency workers are employees of Richmond University Medical Center, the Staten Island hospital where Garner was taken by ambulance and pronounced dead.
Richmond University Medical Center said the four emergency workers have in fact been suspended without pay.
Fire Department spokesman James Long said the Fire Department took action against the hospital’s emergency responders because it oversees the city’s 911 system, a patchwork of publicly and privately operated emergency services.
The restrictions on the medical personnel came a day after the Police Department said it reassigned Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who used the apparent choke hold on Garner, and another unidentified officer while prosecutors and internal affairs detectives investigate. Choke holds are banned under department policy.
The police union is standing by Pantaleo, who has been sued twice before for arrests he made, leading to city settlements in the thousands, Kozar reported.
“This was police officers that wanted to place this person under arrest and bring them to the sidewalk, not a choke hold,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch said.
“This was an active police officer. When you’re an active police officer, you’re going to get sued. He had over 300 arrests.”
Another officer has been put on desk duty, and Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. is also looking into the incident. He has not commented on his office’s investigation.
Video of the arrest Thursday shot by a bystander shows one officer wrap his arm around Garner’s neck as he is taken to the ground as he was being arrested for allegedly selling untaxed, loose cigarettes.
But Ramsey Orta, the man who shot the now-famous video, said police were not arresting him for that offense at all.
“Plain and simple, the police were harassing an innocent man,” Orta said.
Orta insisted police were busting Garner because of a long prior relationship based on previous incidents, and not because of anything he was doing last Friday.
He said Garner had actually just arrived to the scene to break up a fight between strangers when police arrived.