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August 20, 2019

NYC medical examiner testifies that NYPD Officer Pantaleo used a ‘chokehold’ on Eric Garner

May 15, 2019
In this file photo, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house Monday, May 13, 2019, in Staten Island, N.Y. A long-delayed disciplinary trial is set to begin Monday for Pantaleo, accused of using a banned chokehold in the July 2014 death of Eric Garner. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP)

The pathologist who performed an autopsy on Eric Garner testified Wednesday that the banned chokehold performed by Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo sparked a “lethal sequence of events” that led to his death.

Dr. Floriana Persechino said the maneuver sparked an asthma attack, that led to Garner not being able to breathe as he was arrested on Staten Island on July 17, 2014.

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After reviewing the video, first released by the Daily News, Persechinio testified at Pantaleo’s NYPD trial in Police Headquarters that the officer clearly has Garner in a chokehold as he took the larger man down to the ground face first.

“That maneuver is a chokehold,” said Persechino, who has performed upwards of 4,000 autopsies and has been trained on how to check for signs to see if a chokehold played a role in someone’s death.

“It is my opinion that the injury, the chokehold, the chest compression, set in motion a lethal sequence of events… a cascade of events,” she explained.

Using grisly autopsy photos of Garner as a guide, Persechino painstakingly reviewed her findings.

When the Civilian Complaint Review Board announced that autopsy photos would be shown, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr and Iris Baez left the courtroom. Baez’s son Anthony, died after a cop put him in a chokehold in 1994.

Persechino said found signs of trauma below three layers of tissue and that none of Garner’s bones were broken because his weight acted as a cushion to prevent breakage.

Yet an exam of Garner’s eyes showed hemorrhaging blood vessels, signs of asphyxiation.

“The hemorrhaging was due to the compression of the neck by the chokehold,” she said. “Application of pressure to the interior neck is a painful phenomenon.”

Persechino was the sixth witness the Civilian Complaint Review Board put on in their case against Pantaleo, who is accused of performing a banned chokehold on Garner that led to man’s death

On Tuesday, NYPD Inspector Richard Dee, the commanding officer of recruit training, said the position Pantaleo was in when he wrapped his arm around Garner’s neck “meets the definition of a chokehold.”

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Dee also said that, to his knowledge, Pantaleo was never trained on the “seatbelt” maneuver, which the cop’s attorney Stu London said his client used on Garner down during the Tompkinsville confrontation.

Pantaleo and other officers confronted Garner after responding to a complaint about the sale of loose unlicensed cigarettes on Bay St. in Tompkinsville. Garner argued with the cops before Pantaleo put his arm around Garner’s head and took him down.

Garner repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” before losing consciousness.

Frame grab showing arrest of Eric Garner along with NYPD in Staten Island on Thursday, July 17, 2014.
Frame grab showing arrest of Eric Garner along with NYPD in Staten Island on Thursday, July 17, 2014. (New York Daily News)

The city medical examiner ruled Garner died from the chokehold and chest compression, and said Garner’s weight, asthma and cardiovascular disease were contributing factors.

His mother vows to attend every day of the two week trial.

Related Gallery

The death of Eric Garner and the events that followed

The outcome of the NYPD trial judge’s decision won’t be publicly released because of a policy to withhold disciplinary outcomes, citing Section 50-a of the state Civil Rights Law. The law requires personnel records to be confidential, but critics have said the department is interpreting the law too broadly.

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