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Updated: May 21, 2019, 4:04 PM

NYPD cops thought Eric Garner was ‘playing possum’: testimony

By Craig McCarthy and Aaron Feis

NYPD cops believed Eric Garner was “playing possum” when he passed out after allegedly being placed in a banned chokehold during his fatal 2014 arrest, officers testified Tuesday

Taking the stand for the first time in the departmental trial of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, Pantaleo’s partner recalled how they tried to stand Garner upright even though he was “unresponsive.”

“You believed he was playing possum?” Civilian Complain Review Board attorney Suzanne O’Hare asked Officer Justin D’Amico, while taking him through the July day when he and Pantaleo stopped Garner for allegedly peddling loose cigarettes in Staten Island.

“Yes,” replied D’Amico.

“Did you know he wasn’t breathing?” probed the attorney.

“Yes,” replied D’Amico.

“Did you know he wasn’t breathing?” probed the attorney.

“I don’t know,” D’Amico responded.

D’Amico’s testimony followed similar sentiments from fellow Officer William Meems — who arrived on the scene and got out of his squad car in time to see Garner, 43, on the ground.

“I believe it was a possibility he was feigning unconsciousness,” testified Meems.

Garner — who was caught on video repeatedly gasping, “I can’t breathe,” in his final moments of consciousness — was pronounced dead a short time later at an area hospital.

D’Amico also acknowledged Tuesday that he incorrectly processed Garner’s arrest for the run-in after he was already declared dead, citing him for possessing enough untaxed smokes to constitute a felony — or more than 10,000 cigarettes.

In fact, five packs of Newports — four sealed, one with 15 cigarettes remaining — were found on Garner, D’Amico testified.

Pantaleo avoided criminal charges related to Garner’s death, but is now on trial for violating department policy. He could face penalties up to and including ­termination.

The defense was granted an adjournment until June 5 to bring in St. Louis medical examiner Michael Graham, who is expected to concur with an earlier finding by NYPD Supervising Chief Surgeon Eli Kleinman that Garner’s pre-existing medical issues, and not a chokehold, killed him.

Another medical examiner, Dr. Floriana Persechino, last week testified that the chokehold “set into motion a lethal sequence of events.”