Mayor Bill de Blasio said he's ordered NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton to launch a "full and thorough investigation" into the death of a Staten Island man who died Thursday afternoon after officers tried to arrest him.
Police said 43-year-old Eric Garner was pronounced dead at a hospital after officers attempted to apprehend him for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally.
"The men and women of the NYPD are handed an enormous responsibility: the responsibility of keeping us safe, but also the responsibility of making very difficult split-second decisions in trying circumstances," said de Blasio. "It is too early to jump to any conclusions about this case. We must wait for all the facts and all the details of the incident to emerge."
In a video taken of the struggle and posted on the Daily News web site, Garner can be seen repeatedly saying he could not breathe after police put him in a chokehold, and police appeared to slam his head against the sidewalk during the arrest.
Bratton said he saw the video, and that while an officer appeared to utilize a chokehold in the altercation, the commissioner said such tactics were illegal and an infrequent occurrence.
"This would appear to have been a chokehold, but the investigation both by the District Attorney's office and by our own Internal Affairs will seek to make that final determination," said Bratton. "As to whether it's any way shape or form a violation of law, that would be a determination of the District Attorney's criminal investigation."
Bratton said both officers involved in the altercation have been reassigned to desk duty while the investigation is underway.