NEW YORK — An expert forensic pathologist hired by the family of a New York City man whose death in a police chokehold this summer was ruled a homicide said he agreed with the findings of the city’s Medical Examiner after reviewing the man’s organs, slides and the final autopsy report.
Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner hired by the attorneys representing Eric Garner’s family, told reporters at a press conference outside the Manhattan headquarters of the medical examiner’s office that there was hemorrhaging around Garner’s neck, which was indicative of neck compressions.
“Compression of the neck that prevents breathing trumps everything else as cause of death,” he said, noting that Garner had health issues, an enlarged heart, asthma and was overweight.
Baden is the pathologist who conducted an independent autopsy of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old who was killed in an August encounter with a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. A state Grand Jury and the Justice Department are investigating the Ferguson shooting.
Garner, 43, died following a July 17 confrontation with police on Staten Island who were attempting to arrest him for selling untaxed, loose cigarettes. His family wanted an independent review of the autopsy, said his attorney, Sanford Rubenstein.
The confrontation, which was partially captured on amateur video, shows an irate Garner, who was black, refusing to be arrested and struggling with a white officer who places him in a department-banned chokehold, as he repeatedly says “I can’t breathe!” before falling to the ground.
His death sparked outrage and led to the announcement of an overhaul of use-of-force training for the nation’s largest police department.
Patrick Lynch, President of the powerful Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said after Baden’s press conference that the officer did not use a chokehold, but instead a so-called “seatbelt” takedown maneuver and the neck compressions were likely caused by life-saving medical procedures or intubation by emergency medical technicians or doctors, not the police action.
“When you hear the lack of ‘asphyxiation’ it proves once again that this was not a chokehold but a takedown of a person that was resisting arrest,” he said. The case against the police officer has been sent to a grand jury.