NEW YORK — A medical examiner ruled Friday that a police officer's choke hold caused the death of a man whose videotaped arrest and final pleas of "I can't breathe!" sparked outrage and led to the overhaul of use-of-force training for the nation's largest police department.
Eric Garner, 43, a black man whose confrontation with white police officers has prompted calls by the Rev. Al Sharpton for federal prosecution, was killed by neck compressions from the choke hold and "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police," the medical examiner's spokeswoman, Julie Bolcer, said. She said asthma, heart disease and obesity were contributing factors in the death of Garner, a 6-foot-3, 350-pound father of six.
The New York Police Department banned the use of choke holds more than 20 years ago.
The finding increases the likelihood that the case will be presented to a grand jury to determine whether Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed Garner in the choke hold, or any other officers involved in the confrontation will face criminal charges. Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart London, declined to comment.
Garner's wife, Esaw Garner, told the Daily News, "Thank God the truth is finally out."