2014 July 17

“I Can’t Breathe:” Eric Garner Choked to Death by NYPD Police Officers


Eric Garner, a 43 year-old African American, was choked to death on this day on Staten Island, New York, by New York City police officers who were arresting him for selling individual cigarettes on the street. Several officers subdued Garner and then sat on him. Despite his repeated cries of “I can’t breath,” the officers neither got up off him or sought to render medical assistance. The entire episode was captured on a cell phone video by a by-stander.

Garner’s death was one of several outrageous instances of police brutality between the summer of 2014 and the spring of 2015, which provoked national protests, including violent disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland. Garner’s cry of  “I can’t breathe” became one of the slogans of protesters around the country.

On July 13, 2015, the City of New York awarded Garner’s family $5.9 million to settle a civil suit against the city.

Learn more about the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, and the blistering Justice Department report on police abuses in Ferguson, issued on March 4, 2015.

In response to the tragic deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, President Barack Obama established the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Task Force released its Interim Report on March 4, 2015 and its Final Report in April 2015.

Read the book on the case: Matt Taibbi, I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street (2017)

Don’t miss: Wesley Lowery, “They Can’t Kill Us All:” Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement (2016)

Read the report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/pdf/taskforce/taskforce_finalreport.pdf

Learn more about police accountability: Samuel Walker and Carol Archbold, The New World of Police Accountability, 2nd ed. (2014)


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