NEW YORK – The medical investigator who performed an autopsy on Eric Garner told Wednesday that a police choke team was moving "a lethal consequence of events" but she said that even a bear hug could have hastened his death given Garners fragile health.
Bleeding in Garner's neck muscles was an indication that a choke team was being used during the confrontation in July 2014, Dr. Floriana Persechino said during a disciplinary trial that could lead officer Daniel Pantaleo to shoot.
New York Police Department banned chokeholds in the 1990s because they can be deadly.
Persechino said an opponent's mobile video only helped confirm her discoveries that Pantaleo had folded his arm around Garner's neck, obstructing breathing and triggering a fatal asthma attack.
Garner's allegations of "I can't breathe" became a rallying force against police brutality.
"The cooling guard would have compromised the neck and would have compromised the airware ay, making it difficult for him to breathe," Persechino said.
Pantaleo's lawyer, Stuart London, focused on Garner's health as he reviewed Persechino. She said that a person in good health may have survived the confrontation.
Garner weighed 395 pounds on the death day, Persechino said. The 43-year-old suffered from asthma, diabetes and had a heart almost twice as big as a person in good health.
But she didn't say he didn't come in trouble when he looked at the security video that crossed a street in an hour before Pantaleo grabbed him.
London pointed to a report by NYPD's top physician who stated that Garner was "susceptible to morbidity and mortality" and that his death was "concerned with an excited argument followed by a physical struggle".
NYPD doctor, Eli Kleinman, personally did not investigate Garner's body, relies instead on autopsy and video of the confrontation, London said. Kleinman will testify later in the trial that he concludes that Pantaleo did not use a choke team to maintain Garner, London said.
London claimed that Garner could have rescued him if he was accused of being arrested after the officers said they suspected he would sell untaxed loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner. Before Pantaleo grabbed him, Garner was seen on video arguing with the officers and protesting against what he considered constant harassment.
But the central issue in Pantaleo's attempt is that he used a forbidden choke team, not whether Garner was physically capable of resisting one. At a time when fat burning and sacrifice blame is the ban, Garner's mother believed that the focus on his health was a low blow.
"Here I am again tortured by Stu London's shenanigans," Gwen Carr said afterwards.
Carr left the auditorium before about two dozen graphic autopsy pictures were displayed, warned a warning from the administrative judge who supervised the trial.
The pictures, which have never before seen in a public forum, showed scratches on Garner's knee, back and ham and bleeding in the eyes and neck muscles.
NYPD's disciplinary process plays out as a trial in front of an administrative judge.
Normally, the purpose is to determine if an officer violates the department, but it is only if disciplinary fees are filed within 18 months of an event.
As Pantaleo's case weakened, the civilian complaint guard must show that his actions rose to the level of crime, despite facing no criminal charges and attempted in a departmental court, not a criminal court.
The final decision on possible punishment lies with the police commissioner. Penalties range from the loss of holiday days to burning.
Pantaleo, 33, denies inaccuracy. He has been on desk service since Garner died.
Follow Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak
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