September 23, 2014

Garner Family Medical Expert: No Indication Chokehold Was Used

Preliminary Work Supports PBA’s Claim in Defense Of Accused Officer


The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang
PROOF NO CHOKEHOLD WAS USED?: Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch tells reporters that by not mentioning asphyxiation, Dr. Baden ruled out the use of a chokehold during the arrest of Eric Garner. He said neck compression that was found could have been caused by lifesaving techniques used by paramedics and physicians.

Dueling press conferences Sept. 19 left unanswered the question of whether a police officer arresting Eric Garner had placed him in a chokehold.

Dr. Michael Baden, a former city Chief Medical Examiner for New York City who now consults in homicide cases around the country, said he agreed with the autopsy report by the Medical Examiner’s Office that found neck compression was a cause of Mr. Garner’s July 17 death after a struggle with Staten Island cops.

No Sign of Chokehold

Asked immediately whether he had confirmed the use of a chokehold, referred to by the ME’s Office in a telegraphic summary of the autopsy, Dr. Baden said he had more work to do but had not seen indications that such a hold was used.

“Compression of the neck trumps everything else,” he said.

Minutes after Dr. Baden and attorneys for the Garner family vacated the Manhattan street corner near the ME’s Office where the press conference took place, Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, arrived and gave reporters his interpretation.

Mr. Lynch pointed out that Dr. Baden had not mentioned asphyxiation, in which an individual cannot breathe in enough oxygen for reasons that can include choking. “The lack of asphyxiation shows no chokehold,” he said.

“Compression to the neck is consistent with the treatment he would have received from the Emergency Medical Service and in the emergency room,” Mr. Lynch contended.

Caused During CPR?

He said the standard treatments are cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which involves repeatedly pressing on the chest while breathing into the patient’s mouth, or intubation, in which a flexible plastic tube is threaded down a patient’s throat to keep the airway open.

The summary released in early August by the Medical Examiner’s Office said the cause of death was “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.” It listed as contributing conditions acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and high blood pressure.

Mr. Garner, who had a history of more than 30 arrests, was allegedly selling loose cigarettes when officers arrived and told him they would arrest him. Mr. Garner refused to comply, saying he had done nothing wrong and would not cooperate.

The officers called for uniformed backup, then moved in on him. When he shrugged off Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s attempt to pull his hand behind his back to cuff him, a video taken by a bystander showed, Officer Pantaleo, who was significantly shorter than Mr. Garner, placed an arm around the suspect’s neck and brought him to the ground.

EMTs of Little Help

Mr. Garner repeatedly cried, “I can’t breathe.” An ambulance arrived, but emergency medical personnel did little to assist him and he died shortly afterward of a heart attack. A public outcry arose over whether police had used excessive force and whether the entire theory of “broken-windows” policing, which focuses on stopping minor violations as a way of combating major crime, was justified.

Rev. Al Sharpton and other supporters of the family said Officer Pantaleo had used a chokehold, which is prohibited by NYPD policy, to bring him to the ground. Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said it looked like a chokehold, but investigators would have to determine whether it actually was one.

Officer Pantaleo was relieved of his gun and badge while the investigation, led by the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office, went forward. Staten Island DA Dan Donovan is in the process of presenting the case to a grand jury.

PBA: Give Us Report

The PBA and the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association vigorously disputed claims that a chokehold was used. SBA President Edward D. Mullins said that the hold lasted 14 seconds, which was not long enough to choke someone.

Mr. Lynch said at the press conference that the PBA had requested access to the autopsy report so its pathologists and attorneys could examine it with an eye toward disproving a chokehold.

Dr. Baden complimented the work of the ME’s Office on the Garner autopsy. He said he would continue to study the autopsy report, but in this press conference could not speak about anything other than neck compression.

Mr. Lynch again noted that Mr. Garner had triggered the struggle by resisting arrest.