Eric Garner, 43, died of a “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” the office said in announcing the autopsy results.
But the 350-pound Garner’s poor health, including “acute and chronic bronchial asthma; obesity; hypertensive cardiovascular disease,” were also “contributing conditions” to his death, it added.
Garner, a married African-American father of six, was suspected of selling “loosies” by cops, who surrounded him on Bay Street on Staten Island on July 17.
Their takedown of the man was captured on cellphone videos.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, held Garner in a chokehold — which is banned by the NYPD — as the suspect struggled and repeatedly yelled, “I can’t breathe!”
Pantaleo, who is on modified duty, has not been charged with a crime. It will be up to Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. to decide whether to convene a grand jury.
“We await the issuance of the official death certificate and the autopsy report. The investigation into Mr. Garner’s death continues,” said Donovan’s office. A police source said the ME’s ruling that Garner’s death was a homicide does not automatically mean Pantaleo will face arrest.
“The ME’s report is one piece of the puzzle,” the source said. “You’ve got to look at the totality of the incident. There’s no timeline on whether it does or doesn’t go to a grand jury.”
Another police source familiar with the probe said the DA could have a difficult time making a case.
“It’s going to be a tough case to prove intent. He was acting within the scope of a police officer. They may charge him and convict him on a lower charge if they can prove his actions were reckless,” the source said.
Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, suggested Garner’s poor health and decision to resist arrest were to blame for his death.
“ If he had not resisted . . . this tragedy would not have occurred,” Lynch said.
Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said the family was “very, very satisfied” with the ruling. But his son Eric Snipes said it gave the family little comfort.
Mayor de Blasio offered his condolences to the family and repeated his vow to improve relations between the NYPD and minority communities.
“We all have a responsibility to work together to heal the wounds from decades of mistrust and create a culture where the Police Department and the communities they protect respect each other,” de Blasio said.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the NYPD will cooperate with Donovan’s probe.
The US Attorney’s Office is also investigating for possible civil-rights violations.
A source said Pantaleo and other cops involved in the arrest have gotten death threats and are not staying in their homes.