According to a press release, the New York Assembly has passed the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, a new law that makes use of the chokehold a class C felony which can can lead to a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
“I have worked with my Assembly colleagues to reform our state’s broken criminal justice system. Holding law enforcement officers accountable for their actions is a necessary part of that,” New York Assembly member Carl Heastie said in the release. “The NYPD ban on chokeholds was not enough to protect Eric Garner, and it is not enough today. This legislation will put an end to the practice across the state.”
This legislation also creates a new crime of aggravated strangulation, which is defined as “when a police or peace officer, using a chokehold or similar restraint, applies pressure to the throat or windpipe of a person, hindering breathing or the intake of air, and causes serious physical injury or death.”
George Floyd Also Said “I Can’t Breathe” Before he Died in Police Custody
The announcement of this law comes after the death of George Floyd re-energized the Black Lives Matter movement and sparked protests across the nation. While in police custody last month, Floyd uttered the same words Garner did when officers used the chokehold to restrain him, “I can’t breathe,” while ex-officer Derek Chauvin knelt into his neck for nearly nine minutes.
“Almost six years ago, we heard Eric Garner tell police ‘I can’t breathe’ as he was put into a chokehold by an NYPD officer, Assembly member Walter T. Mosley said in the press release. “His words now speak from the grave as we deal with the police killing of George Floyd under nearly identical circumstances. Hundreds of unarmed black men and women have been killed at the hands of police officers before and between these two tragedies. In 2015 I introduced this bill to outlaw chokeholds statewide, and I am proud to see it taken up today as we pass legislation to reform our criminal justice system. This is an important step forward, but it will not be the last. We must work to change the way that police officers interact with communities of color, or we will continue to see these killings occur.”
NYPD Officers Continued to Use the Illegal Chokehold After Garner’s Death
The press release also stated that even though the chokehold was banned in 1993, it was still widely used by NYPD officers while restraining people during an arrest. From 2014 to 2020, the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board received 996 complaints from civilians saying the chokehold was used during their arrest.
Garner was approached by officers in July of 2014 while selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island, New York. He was tackled by police officers and former officer Daniel Pantaleo used the illegal chokehold while restraining Garner. According to an autopsy performed by medical examiner Dr. Floriana Persechino, Pantaleo applied so much force to Garner’s neck that it caused a fatal asthma attack. Pantaleo was fired from the police department in 2019 after being found guilty of violating a department ban on chokeholds.