As New York City officials investigate the case of a Staten Island man who died Thursday after allegedly being put in a chokehold by police, the city’s Fire Department removed the first responders who attended to the man from regular duty.
Four emergency medical personnel — two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians — attended to Eric Garner after he appeared to pass out during a tussle with police.
The four will not be able to respond to 911 emergency calls until a Fire Department investigation is complete, according to a statement from Richmond University Medical Center, where Garner was taken and declared dead. Hospital officials are conducting their own internal investigation.
Neither the Fire Department nor Police Department responded to requests for comment.
Staten Island resident Ramsey Orta, 22, filmed Garner’s encounter with police and watched the aftermath as the first responders arrived. He said Garner was shoved to the ground and that officers pressed their knees and hands against his face as he shouted that he couldn’t breathe.
Paramedics checked Garner’s neck and stomach upon arrival, according to Orta. “They made it seem like he was breathing and he was OK,” Orta said.
A second witness video posted to YouTube over the weekend showed officers and medical personnel hovering over Garner, checking for a pulse, and then lifting him onto a stretcher. Medical personnel can be heard telling officers that he has a pulse and is breathing, although Garner is unresponsive.
The NYPD officer who allegedly administered the chokehold has been placed on “modified duty,” according to the department.
The Richmond County district attorney’s office is conducting an investigation, a spokesperson said.
The city’s medical examiner has not yet released a cause of death for Garner.