Eric Garner’s death was caused by a police chokehold as he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island, the medical examiner’s office said on Friday.
The 43-year-old man’s death was ruled a homicide, the city’s medical examiner announced. The agency said he died from compression of the neck as well as “compression of chest and prone positioning” while being restrained by the police.
The medical examiner’s office also said that the 350-lb man’s asthma, obesity and heart disease were contributing factors.
Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement extending his “deepest sympthathies” to Garner’s family and promising to continue to work with “all involved authorities” to “ensure a fair and justified outcome.”
“We all have a responsibility to work together to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust and create a culture where the police department and the communities they represent respect each other,” he said. “I’ve said that we would make change, and we will.”
Staten Island prosecutors who are investigating Garner’s death said Friday they were awaiting an autopsy report and the official death certificate.
Garner died July 17 after several officers tried to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. Following the incident, which was videotaped, the officer accused of placing Garner in a banned chokehold was put on modified duty and stripped of his badge and weapon.
Patrick Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement that the medical examiner’s report “indicates that Mr. Garner was a man with serious health problems.”
“There will have to be a complete and thorough analysis of all the factors that played a part in this tragedy,” he said. “We believe, however, that if he had not resisted the lawful order of the police officers placing him under arrest, this tragedy would not have occurred.”
The death sparked outrage from civil rights activists and led Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to order retraining for all of the NYPD’s officers.
The NYPD said it was continuing to cooperate in the investigation into Garner’s death.