NYPD Initially Said It Was An Accident; Family Believes It Was Arson

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A memorial honoring Eric Garner, the 43-year-old father of six who died after being placed in an apparent chokehold by police last summer, was found burned on Staten Island.

Roses and notes are blackened, the brick wall behind the memorial is charred and the memorial’s plexiglass is melted, 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis reported.

Members of the Garner family are convinced the memorial was intentionally set on fire between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Garner’s daughter, who was the first to tweet about the damage, believes her father’s memorial was burned to the ground by vandals.

Garner’s stepfather, Benjamin Carr, is convinced it was arson.

“This was deliberately set,” Carr said.

The NYPD initially said a candle may have tipped over, accidentally starting the fire, Dennis reported. The fire marshal is launching an investigation.

Garner’s family and neighbors said they don’t believe that and want the person responsible to be arrested.

Family members are vowing to rebuild the memorial.

Garner died in July after police officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

In cellphone video of the incident, NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck in an apparent chokehold and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.

Garner is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” He died a short time later.

A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo.