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Funeral held for police chokehold victim

DEADLY CHOKEHOLD: Eric Garner died after he was apprehended by police officers in New York

THE FUNERAL for a man who died in police custody after an officer placed him in an apparent chokehold in front of horrified onlookers was held on Wednesday (Jul 23).

Eric Garner, who reportedly suffered from asthma, died last week ( July 17) on Staten Island in New York, after a plain clothes police officer placed him in a deadly chokehold when attempting to arrest him on charges of selling illegal cigarettes.

The fatal altercation was caught on video by shocked members of the public.

In the video, Garner can be heard protesting his innocence and claiming he had been trying to break up a fight. Eyewitnesses have since backed up his story.

The footage then shows an officer putting his arm around the 43-year-old father's neck and yanking him to the ground. Garner, who weighed 350lbs and is reported to have suffered from asthma, repeats in a panicked voice: "I can’t breathe, I can't breathe," as officers push his face into the sidewalk. Moments later, Garner’s body appears to go limp.

When questioned about the lack of CPR administered to Garner, another officer tells cameraman Ramsey Orta, "he's breathing". Garner is unresponsive at this point.

The Rev. Al Sharpton told the crowd gathered at Brooklyn’s Bethel Baptist Church that he was scheduled to meet with the U.S. attorney’s office today (July 25), and he called for a civil rights probe.

FINAL GOODBYE: Eric Garner's coffin is carried through Brooklyn’s Bethel Baptist Church on Wednesday (July 23)

He took Orta to the lectern and praised him for recording the arrest. Sharpton fired up the crowd with a point-by-point dissection of the events that led to Garner’s death.

“Yes, God will make a way, but God expects something of us,” he said. “When you can, in broad daylight, choke one of God’s children, he expects us to stand up and demand justice.”

Sharpton compared Garner’s death to that of Amadou Diallo, who was shot by officers who said they thought a wallet was a gun. “What excuse could you come up with this time?” Sharpton asked.

He said even if police forgot their training and used an illegal chokehold, they and medics needed to react when Garner said repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”

Though autopsy results are pending, one officer has been stripped of his gun and badge pending an investigation. Another has been placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two EMTs have been placed on modified duty.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has vowed to retrain its officers on the use of force. The training includes sending a team of officers to Los Angeles to learn how that city’s police department modified its use-of-force protocols after several high-profile episodes of brutality.

Absent from the funeral was New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is on vacation in Italy. The mayor arrived in Rome on Saturday after delaying his flight to deal with the fallout from Garner's death.

During a press conference, De Blasio called the incident "very troubling”, and promised a “full, thorough, transparent” investigation.

The NYPD internal affairs bureau has launched an internal review, and is working closely with the office of the Staten Island district attorney, which is leading this investigation.

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