A 43-year-old Staten Island man died after being put in a chokehold when plainclothes officers from the New York Police Department tried to take him into custody for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, according to multiple reports.
Witnesses told the Los Angeles Times that the man was approached by several NYPD officers after breaking up a fight on Thursday afternoon.
The officers had wanted to question Garner about the possible sale of illegal cigarettes, something he had been charged with several times previously, the Times reported.
The escalating confrontation between police and Garner, a married father of six, was captured by a bystander on cell phone video that was obtained by the New York Daily News.
In the video, officers can be seen talking to Garner outside a store.
“I didn’t do nothing. What did I do?” he asked them. “I didn’t sell anything.”
As the officers continue to speak with him, Garner raised his voice, begging them to just leave him alone.
“I’m minding my business, officer… please just leave me alone,” he yelled.
Moments later, two of the officers approach Garner and began touching him.
“Don’t touch me, please… do not touch me,” he told them while they grabbed him from two different directions, the video showed.
One of the officers could then be seen grabbing Garner’s neck and pulling him into a chokehold, according to the video. The father then fell to the ground as one of the officers appeared to tackle him.
Several other officers then rushed in to help assist in putting handcuffs on him.
As they attempted to subdue him, Garner — who suffered from chronic asthma according to reports — repeatedly and frantically told officers that he couldn’t breathe, but they continued and pushed his head and body against the ground, the video showed.
Shortly after, a man said off-camera that “they gave this man a seizure,” and Garner could be seen lying motionless on the ground.
He died at a hospital about an hour later, according to the Times. Garner’s cause of death was still being determined.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the incident in a press conference and promised a thorough investigation.
“Like so many New Yorkers, I was very troubled by the video I reviewed earlier today,” the mayor said. “I have instructed [Police] Commissioner [William] Bratton to ensure that there will be a full and thorough investigation of this incident.”
Gary Nieves Jr., who witnessed the confrontation, told the Times the incident has shaken area residents.
“People are outraged. They want answers,” he said. “They want to not feel like victims.”