4 EMS workers involved in death of Eric Garner suspended without pay

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. (PIX11) -- Everything about the arrest and medical treatment of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died in police custody, was wrong, according to two families of people who also died in police custody. Meanwhile, the investigation into Garner's death and medical treatment continues.

"It's barbaric. I feel it's inhumane," said Carmen Ojeda about a plainclothes NYPD officer putting Garner, 43, into a choke hold and then, along with at least a half-dozen other officers, pushing the well-known father of six onto the sidewalk. Ojeda has had firsthand experience with medical emergencies in police custody.

When her 11-year-old daughter, Briana, had an asthma attack in a Brooklyn park four years ago, Ojeda turned the wrong way onto a one way street as she sped to the hospital. Officer Alfonso Mendez refused to help them when the mother flagged him down for assistance, and instead he tried to ticket her. Her daughter ended up dying.

Carmen Ojeda and her husband, Michael, also had with them at a small Monday afternoon protest a statement from the family of Anthony Baez. His NYPD choke hold death twenty years ago has been a part of the reason the choke hold has been banned by the NYPD since the early 1990s, under the direction of then-commissioner Bill Bratton.

The Ojeda and Baez families on Monday condemned the choke hold having been used in the arrest of Eric Garner last Thursday.

In the most widely seen video of the arrest, obtained from a bystander by the Daily News, the choke hold happens approximately 1 minute and 41 seconds into the incident. Then, 19 seconds later, the 350-pound man with a long history of arrests for illegally selling loose cigarettes, says repeatedly, "I can't breathe," as he's held on the ground, by officers. One of them visibly pushes and holds down Garner's head on the sidewalk while Garner repeats that he can't breathe.

"When he said [that]," Ojeda said, "the aggressiveness should have stopped, they should have started administering CPR or first aid."

Ojeda is also critical of private EMTs and paramedics who were called in to respond. In another cellphone video taken by a bystander, the medical first responders are seen not following the standard procedure of placing an oxygen mask on a patient who has complained of not being able to breathe.

At that point in the video, nearly five minutes after Garner has been put into handcuffs and arrested, another EMT is seen stepping past Garner while carrying emergency medical equipment which could potentially save the life of the man in custody. The equipment does not get used.

Instead, an EMT is seen and heard telling Garner that she's there to help him. She takes his pulse, touches his abdomen, and apparently does nothing more until she and police officers lift Garner's body onto a stretcher and take him to an ambulance.

An officer tells a bystander, "He's still breathing," toward the end of the video, but Garner is declared dead minutes later at the hospital.

"When you check for a pulse, that's not sufficient," said Michael Ojeda, Carmen's husband, and father of Briana, who died after Officer Mendez refused to give her medical aid four years ago. He and his wife are leading a campaign, championed by State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (D) Brooklyn, to require police statewide to be re-certified every year in CPR administration.

For now, Daniel Pantaleo, the plainclothes officer who had put Garner in a choke hold, has been stripped of his gun and his badge, and the two EMTs and two paramedics who responded, who have not been named, have been suspended without pay.

A statement from the medical center explained that operational restriction means the EMTs and paramedics having that status "cannot work in the citywide 911 system, pending investigation. The investigation is being conducted by the Office of Medical Affairs of FDNY. Internally, the hospital is evaluating the case through a quality assurance process."

8 comments

  • Mike

    Show the whole video and stop trying to cause a riot. A choke hold involves restricting the flow of air by applying pressure to the throat. The officer couldn’t even get his arm around that man and he was on the ground in less than a three seconds. It had nothing to do with the extra 300lbs (sarcasm). I’ve been arrested, detained, and held but I always did what the Officer’s asked me to. Never choked.

  • IncognitoEthos

    So for the case of the 11-year-old dying, I agree completely that there was wrongdoing on the part of the officer. So this shows that I am not blind to logic or common sense. Now as for the Eric Garner and Ronald Johns case (and others like them):

    What I find more disturbing is that both the “victims” were resisting arrest and not following police instructions. It must be their upbringing because I was always told to do as an officer says and if an officer says for me to put my hands behind my back, I do it. It wasn’t like these two guys were in isolated, dark places where they feared that after the cuffs were put on and despite remaining compliant, they would be beaten and helpless to defend themselves. There were people all around and some with cameras. The suspects were given instructions and both weren’t complying. Eric Garner kept arguing and then when the officers tried to put his arms behind his back to handcuff him, he yanked free repeatedly, demanding that they don’t touch him.

    Sad for a loss of life, but if you don’t want to get in a tussle with the police and end up either injured or worse, then comply with their instructions…or better yet, don’t do things that can get them called on you!

    Officers put their own lives on the line daily for strangers so how can anyone fault them for reacting more aggressively when someone becomes belligerent? Those officers want to get home to their families too. If they under react, then they have the potential to be harmed or for other innocent people to be harmed.

    Had the suspect Eric Garner simply complied, not only would the officers have gone home safely to their families, but the suspect would have as well. Instead, he lays in a coffin, his children losing their father due to the bad choices he made, not due to the NYPD.

    • Angie

      When cops are overzealous, it doesnt matter how well you obey their commands. They do what they want. And for the record, loosies is not something anyone should die over.

      • IncognitoEthos

        Ok, so here’s the thing. I agree in general with your statement. But that more closely applies to if he was selling loosies and the cops shot him for it. What got him killed was that he RESISTED ARREST. Again, he was in public so if he had complied there would be no story here. The police wouldn’t have had to have gotten physical with him and he wouldn’t have died.

        If you backtrack the actions involved of the people, the incident started with a single action/decision and that was Garner’s choice to do something illegal. That was his first bad choice. Cops were called for that action which is their job, what we as citizens agree is to be done to keep the laws in place. Second bad choice was again made by Garner…to resist arrest.

        Were he to have picked a better choice in either of those two actions/decisions, he would be alive today.

  • IncognitoEthos

    Forgot to mention that in the case of the EMTs, it did seem like they were negligent and didn’t do their job right. However, just to point this out in defense of the officers (not the EMTs because it really did seem like they were nonchalant about the situation), I have witnessed many types of arrests and often, suspects will say they can’t breath and part of it is the adrenaline, part of it is fear and anxiety and part of it is the actual physical struggle they just had with the police. Perhaps what Garner should have said over and over again was, “I have asthma, I can’t breath, I have asthma” or if his asthma was so bad, then he should have had a medical alert bracelet. Then perhaps, I could say that the officers should have paid closer attention to that.

    • Angie

      Next time I can’t breath or am losing oxygen, I’ll be sure to remember to say I have asthma. When someone says they cant breathe, maybe you should take them seriously. Especially if u are choking them!

      • IncognitoEthos

        Your response makes you sound very sheltered or just ignorant. So maybe watch Cops on TV to get a little reality into what criminals will say and do. They will say anything to get the cops to loosen their holds, relax their guard, etc. In the meantime, let me break this down for you:

        1) Don’t commit a crime that would cause the police to be called
        2) If you do commit a crime, the DO NOT RESIST ARREST
        3) If you have asthma bad enough that you could die (and apparently Garner knew this), then wear a medical alert bracelet.

        It’s really simple. And if you noticed on the video, there was a point he was talking and he could say “I can’t breathe”, so he could have said “I have severe asthma, I can’t breathe”.

        And by the way, the coroner’s report didn’t mention any trauma to Garner’s throat that would have indicated he really was in a true choke hold. There are certain specifications that need to be met to be considered a true choke hold and this was not it. It was a grip around a larger and taller man whom the shorter and smaller officer was trying to pull down to take control of the situation.

        It is quite possible that Garner died from his asthma because of the excitement and adrenaline and sadly, this just happened to be the time it killed him. It would be interesting to get records of his prior arrests to see if:

        a) did he resist during those arrests? If so, do we really believe the officers were treating him with kid gloves, especially since there didn’t seem to be any cameras at any earlier arrest of his? And since so many people have such bad things to say about the heroes in blue, then many out there would be quick to say he was probably just as “mistreated” during those arrests as well. If this is so, why didn’t he die then?
        b) if he did not resist and he didn’t die during those arrests, then that means the cops must not have mistreated him during those other arrests (this logic stems from so many out there that insist the NYPD can’t help but be violent and break rules during arrests of black people. This is not a belief I hold, but I wanted to cover this view that so many out there have). I don’t believe they mistreated him during this arrest either, so I wanted to make that clear as well.

        So in either of those two situations, it does not boast well for the idea that the NYPD killed this man due to his asthma. It only shows that on THIS arrest when his asthma allegedly kicked in (and I say allegedly because we don’t know if he was simply using one of the many lines criminals use during this type of situation or not), the EMTs, if anything, were negligent. I can’t say if it was gross negligence or not yet because the news likes to cut video up and all the facts aren’t out yet. I do not make it a practice to find fault with our heroes in the police departments, fire departments or medical fields (this does not mean there are no faults and that true faults shouldn’t be brought to justice, I just don’t try to push responsibility of an individual’s poor choices, as in this situation to not commit crimes, onto the the individuals bound to arrest those individuals) but from what I saw on the video, I would be VERY angry about how nonchalant those EMTs were acting.

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