New York police rules that forbid chokeholds and define them as including “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air…as defined in the department’s patrol guide, this would appear to have been a chokehold,” the police commissioner, William J. Bratton, said at a news conference in City Hall on Friday afternoon after the shocking death of Eric Garner, 43, thursday after he was manhandled by police after refusing to be arrested on suspicion of selling illegal cigarettes.
After being confronted by officer, Mr. Garner refused to be to handcuffed. That’s when a plain clothes officer immediately threw his arm around the man’s neck and pulled him to the ground, holding him in what appears, in a video, to be a chokehold. Mr. Garner can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” over and over again as other officers swarm about.
At this time, officials are saying it is unclear if the chokehold contributed to the death on Thursday afternoon of Mr. Garner, who was at least 6 feet 3 inches tall and who, friends said, had several health issues: diabetes, sleep apnea, and asthma so severe that he had to quit his job as a horticulturist for the city’s parks department. He wheezed when he talked and could not walk a block without resting, they said.
Nonetheless, the use of a chokehold in subduing a large but unarmed man during a low-level arrest raises for Mr. Bratton the same questions about police training and tactics that he faced 20 years ago, in his first stint as New York City’s police commissioner.
In 1994, the year after the Police Department banned chokeholds, a man named Anthony Baez died in the Bronx after a police officer put him in a chokehold during a dispute over a touch football game.