A man was killed yesterday while Staten Island police were in the process of arresting him. According to eyewitness reports, the 400-pound, asthmatic man was put in a chokehold and had his head slammed against the sidewalk by police. Witnesses say the man screamed, "I can't breathe" at least six times before he went limp, prompting police to call an ambulance.
A group of Staten Island police had been observing the man because he had a history of selling untaxed cigarettes. Video of the incident, taped by bystanders using their cellphones, shows police approaching the man, questioning him about the cigarettes.
"I was just minding my own business. Every time you see me you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today!" yelled the man.
Police attempted to cuff the man, but he refused to put his hands behind his back, at which point one of the cops came from behind and put him in a chokehold. There were five cops at the scene of this arrest – the two cops who approached him and three backup cops. The chokehold then turned into multiple officers piling on the man, knocking him to the ground.
According to the man's family, he had no cigarettes on his person or in his car at the time of the incident. The victim's wife spoke on the phone with Detective Howard of the NYPD's Internal Affairs Division at the hospital, who said his office was investigating because "there is wrongdoing."
A source from the Staten Island police department stated, "A guy is dead in our custody. That is always a potential problem."
The latest update on this incident revealed that the Staten Island district attorney is working in conjunction with the NYPD to investigate this incident.