NEW YORK (Reuters) - A prominent pathologist hired by the family of Eric Garner, a man killed by New York City police in July during an arrest involving a banned choke hold, said on Friday his review of the autopsy confirmed earlier findings that Garner’s windpipe was crushed.
Dr. Michael Baden, a former chief medical examiner for the city, praised the official autopsy on Garner’s body as thorough after reviewing the tissue samples, x-rays and the pathologist’s report held at the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
“They do confirm there’s a hemorrhage in the neck indicative of a neck compression,” Baden told reporters in a sidewalk press conference, accompanied by lawyers for Garner’s family. “That was the cause of death.”
He found nothing that “disputes” the autopsy’s conclusion that Garner’s death was a homicide caused by police compressing his neck and chest with a choke hold and other restraints, a finding that has been angrily disputed by the city’s main police union.
Last month, Baden traveled to Missouri to perform an independent autopsy on Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager shot dead by a police officer in the town of Ferguson in hotly disputed circumstances.
Both Garner and Brown were black, and their deaths have renewed questions about how American police forces treat minorities.
The death of Garner, 43, as he was arrested for peddling loose cigarettes scandalized the city and tested Mayor Bill de Blasio’s electoral promises to mend relations between the police and black and Latino citizens.
De Blasio, who called the death a tragedy, has found himself at odds with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the nation’s largest municipal police union.
While Baden was speaking, Patrick Lynch, the union’s president, was waiting out of sight nearby, and emerged to speak to the press a few minutes after the pathologist left.
“One of the things that you did not hear him say is ‘asphyxiated’,” Lynch said, accurately. Lynch suggested this meant it was not a choke hold that killed Garner, and that the damage to Garner’s windpipe may equally have been caused by emergency medical treatment he later received.
The police department’s patrol guide bans officers from using choke holds, saying they can be deadly.
No one has been criminally charged for killing Garner, but Daniel Donovan, Staten Island’s district attorney, is convening a grand jury who may vote to indict some of the officers involved.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone and Mohammad Zargham