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Home > Topics > Patient Handling

Modified duty for medics after fatal NYC arrest

A video showed the responders and cops walking in circles as the man was lying on the sidewalk unresponsive

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Four emergency workers involved in the medical response for a New York City man who died in police custody after being put in an apparent chokehold have been barred from responding to 911 calls, the Fire Department of New York said.

The two EMTs and two paramedics removed from the city's emergency response system are the latest public safety workers to face reassignment as questions mount about Thursday's death of Eric Garner. Two police officers — including the one who put his arm around Garner's neck — have been put on desk duty.

The medics' modified duty restrictions will remain in effect pending an investigation into their actions, fire department spokesman James Long said Sunday.

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Video of the arrest shot by a bystander shows one officer wrap his arm around Garner's neck as he is taken to the ground — arrested for allegedly selling untaxed, loose cigarettes — while Garner shouts, "I can't breathe!"

The fire department disclosed the medics' reassignment after a second video surfaced showing at least a half-dozen police officers and emergency workers circling a man who appears to be Garner lying on the sidewalk, handcuffed and unresponsive.

Long said placing the emergency workers on modified duty — which includes a notice in their state health department file that they are not to respond to medical calls — is department protocol when questions arise about a medical response and was not a reaction to the post-arrest video.

The fire department said the emergency workers are employees of Richmond County Medical Center, the Staten Island hospital where Garner was taken by ambulance and pronounced dead. Authorities said the father of six likely had a heart attack, but more tests are needed to determine the exact cause and manner of his death.

A Richmond County Medical Center spokeswoman did not immediately respond to messages.

Long said the fire department took action against the hospital's emergency responders because it oversees the city's 911 system, a patchwork of public and privately-operated emergency services.

The restrictions on the medical personnel came a day after the police department said it reassigned Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who used the apparent chokehold on Garner, and another unidentified officer while prosecutors and internal affairs detectives investigate. Chokeholds are banned under department policy.

The department said it stripped Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran of the force, of his gun and badge.

Court records show that within the past two years, three men sued Pantaleo in federal court over allegedly unlawful, racially motivated arrests. Pantaleo did not return a telephone message.

Earlier Sunday, the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded justice for Garner and accountability from citizens who attack police officers during an appeal from the pulpit at Manhattan's Riverside Church.

Garner was "choked by New York City policemen," the Harlem preacher told the congregation. "What bothers me is that the nation watches a man say 'I can't breathe' and the choking continues, and police surround him and none of them even say, 'Wait a minute, stop! He can't breathe!'"

Garner's funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at the Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

Video of Garner's struggle with police obtained by the New York Daily News shows the 6-foot-3, 350-pound man becoming irate and refusing to be handcuffed.

Garner, who has been arrested for illegally selling cigarettes numerous times in recent years, told the officers who confronted him that he had not done anything wrong, according to the video of the arrest.

"Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today," Garner shouts. "I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone."

Then, as four officers bring him down to the sidewalk, Garner, who was asthmatic, gasps, "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" The video shows one officer using his hands to push Garner's face into the sidewalk.

The second video, which appears to have been shot shortly after Garner was handcuffed, shows him lying on the sidewalk, apparently unresponsive. More than three minutes in, medics arrive and one checks his pulse. Garner is lifted onto a gurney and transported to a waiting ambulance about two minutes later.

Associated PressCopyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

A bystander asks why no one is performing CPR and one officer responds, "because he's breathing."

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Daniel Garrelts Daniel Garrelts Monday, July 21, 2014 8:05:05 AM I was a Basic Life Support Instructor for 6 years and trained and re-qualified hundreds of people in that time, including First Responders and Hospital Staff. My sister has over 20 years experience as an Oncology Register Nurse and is very familiar with how death looks. Eric Garner, from the time the second video starts, is giving no indications of breathing, and both my sister and I agree on that. A person as large as him and with the breathing problems he had, always will display visual indicators that they are breathing, their chest and stomach rises and falls. That is not happening in this video and it should have been even more labored after what he endured... if he was still breathing. If a person hasn't been breathing as long as he had been, they would have no pulse. There was never an assessment of whether he was breathing or not, the ABCs are supposed to be done in order; Airway, Breathing, Circulation. I believe they conspired to act as if he were alive to prevent a possible riot. A video forensic enhancement and analysis should be performed to determine what the EMS and police talked about away from the camera. I believe they colluded in criminal negligence that prevented this man's life from being saved.
Walter Waganka Walter Waganka Monday, July 21, 2014 9:31:07 AM Smoking kills.
Carol Merten Carol Merten Monday, July 21, 2014 9:45:11 AM You've got to be kidding!
Jim Dean Jim Dean Monday, July 21, 2014 10:03:24 AM Just as a clarification, as I understand it, when the call started, he wasn't accused of selling (or doing) anything. According to other bystander statements, he'd broken up a fight between two men, who'd already left the scene. He was still there, and probably had some adrenaline going, having just finished that confrontation. The officer started in on him with no reason, if the interviews I saw are true, and it went downhill from there-fast.
Jeremy Naser Jeremy Naser Monday, July 21, 2014 12:48:41 PM It seems like the choke hold is what started out the suspects difficulty breathing. But seems even more so like a case of positional asphyxiation
Julie Needelman Julie Needelman Monday, July 21, 2014 1:19:40 PM If he's shouting "I can't breathe, I can't breathe." You can clearly breathe if you can clearly speak.
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 1:39:24 PM Actually, it's CAB (circulation, airway, breathing) nowadays. They changed that not too long ago.
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 1:42:33 PM And now he is clearly dead. I think it's obvious that difficulty breathing is the pathway to not being able to breathe at all. You statement is true, but is a little silly to say here. Ever heard of asphyxiation? He probably said that he can't breathe at the only moment he was able to breath. This guy is 400 pounds. Your statement would be legit if this guy lived, and then sued the police afterwards. But that just isn't the case here.
Marcin Cabel Marcin Cabel Monday, July 21, 2014 2:16:55 PM good job :)
Alex J Rosario Alex J Rosario Monday, July 21, 2014 3:25:12 PM CAB only applies to CPR which stands for Compression, Airway, and then Breathing. In every other scenario it has always been ABC (Airway, Breathing, Circulation). A patient without a patent airway who isn't breathing will die regardless of how well you bandaged his wounds.
Daniel Garrelts Daniel Garrelts Monday, July 21, 2014 4:14:43 PM Kyle Johnson Had my last recert in 2009 and then got out of the Navy in '10, thanks for the updated info Doc! As a Corpsman, when you look at the video, what do you think, breathing or not?
Donna Plumley Brubach Donna Plumley Brubach Monday, July 21, 2014 5:21:23 PM That wasn't a chokehold at first, but a takedown move. I don't think from the video he was ever choked. But they should have sat him up immediately just because of his size.....I say positional asphyxiation, exacerbated by his weight, and hx of asthma. Bottom line, don't struggle with the cops, and that shit won't happen.
Ky Dula Ky Dula Monday, July 21, 2014 7:01:33 PM Once he linked his hands together it became a choke hold... By USA wrestling standards, jujitsu standards and self defense standards. He put his arm around his neck and grabbed his other hand by that man's right ear.
Ky Dula Ky Dula Monday, July 21, 2014 7:03:57 PM I have patients on a daily basis that say they can't breathe when they are in respiratory distress. That's what they do...tell you "I can't breathe."
Laverne Hardwick Laverne Hardwick Monday, July 21, 2014 8:29:21 PM He said I cant breathe when he could, When he ceased speaking it was because he was dead. There was clearly a delay in care. It looked as if she knew what was up and was trying to save face. I practice what I call "scoop and swoop" if the situation is unsafe I scoop up the pt and put him in the truck and get to work...He was already on his side . Log roll him, Put him on a backboard and have all those cops pick him up and put him on the bus and move on.
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 9:02:15 PM Ky Dula Every single healthcare worker on this planet has the "I can't breathe" patient on a daily basis. This guy is dead, unlike most of our "I can't breathe" patients. Thanks though.
Ky Dula Ky Dula Monday, July 21, 2014 9:03:59 PM Kyle Johnson True, my point was that a person will tell you they can't breathe before they go unconscious or die...
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 9:05:13 PM Ky Dula Ok, gotcha. I thought you were meaning it another way, sorry
Ky Dula Ky Dula Monday, July 21, 2014 9:07:30 PM Kyle Johnson Absolutely not. She was trying to say that just because he said "I can't breathe" that meant he was breathing fine.
Donna Plumley Brubach Donna Plumley Brubach Monday, July 21, 2014 9:11:18 PM I didn't see him locking his hands together but even if he did as big as the guy was it would still be permissible. I don't think that's where the problem streets, but when he was on the ground and not Llowed to sit up. His weight alone would be enough to hamper his breathing
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 9:13:39 PM Alex J Rosario Absolutely not. A massive hemorrhage, i.e. Amputated limb, can kill a guy in 3 minutes. You can go longer without air. I realize that in the past, it was ABC for everything. so the priorities have changed recently and officially, throughout the healthcare world. You stop any LIFE THREATENING bleeding first, THEN go onto airway & breathing. Now it is CAB for not only CPR, but for general first aid as well. Also, "circulation" can be interchangeable with compressions with CPR. compressions ARE FOR circulation. I've been an instructor to a crew on a warship for several years, and it has been about 3 years or so since we've changed to CAB for not only CPR, but first aid as well. Not sure where you are working at Alex, but in the military, we try to get it right when we have the potential for massive trauma.
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 9:18:21 PM Daniel Garrelts Yep I think they swapped to CAB (for CPR and first aid) in late 2010, or early 2011 if I'm not mistaken. Thanks for your service, I just got out myself a week ago, and am headed to the reserves. Were you an HM also, or just did the instructor stuff as a collateral? I think he was having a hard time breathing from not only the fact that he was morbidly obese, but also with several guys on top of him. If asphyxiation didn't kill him, an MI probably did the job. That's my guess anyway. Hard to tell from one angle!
Alex J Rosario Alex J Rosario Monday, July 21, 2014 9:36:28 PM Kyle I want to start off first by thank you for your service. Going to the whole CAB thing. Unfortunately, you are very wrong. Yes, we do treat immediate life threats prior to our ABCs. Which may include and is not limited to major hemorrhaging. The year you provided was around the time when cpr became CAB and around the same time the confusion began. Which is completely understandable since prehospital care has utilized acronyms quite vigorously to help creat a standard of care. You'd be surprised how many EMTs believe cab is the new standard of care. The level I am speaking from is what is taught at the NREMT-P level. I don't know how the military runs, but over here... It's ABC.
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 9:55:24 PM Alex J Rosario I don't know about "very wrong"...I think we are on the same track, it sounds like the way of running through the process is just different between Paramedic and Corpsmen. For us, the absolute first thing is CAB-which includes those life-threatening issues to be addressed first. You are telling me that you take care of those critical issues like major bleeds, and then go onto ABC, which makes perfect sense. What I was envisioning on your side was ignoring a life-threatening bleed, and giving somebody rescue breaths--that type of deal. So to me it sounds like a different way of teaching and running through scenarios, but basically the actions taken are the exact same. For us. CAB, for you, critical issues, then ABC's-got it. side note- our "C" does not include bandaging non life threatening bleeds. Those are just out secondary issues we take care of after CAB. Another side note- I thought I was talking to a "Creative and Performing Arts High School student, not a Paramedic or higher... I respect your opinion more than a sophomore high school art student (haha)
Alex J Rosario Alex J Rosario Monday, July 21, 2014 10:01:49 PM Reading your response made me realize how right you are. We are both looking at things the same way. I'm happy we were able to debate civilly. I respect you wholeheartedly for doing so.
Rich Palmer Rich Palmer Monday, July 21, 2014 10:03:42 PM Alex J Rosario Replying as both a former Army Medic, and currently certified NREMT-P, with ACLS, PALS, and soon to be NRP... It is STILL taught, even at NREMT level, to visually assess for killer bleeds before checking airway. Think back to your trauma and medical stations, the rubric has Killer bleeds before you even begin to assess the patient's breathing...AKA "Determines chief complaint/apparent life-threats". Also, you are taught during AHA classes is compressions first, then breathing. You and Kyle are both correct. Either way, if my partner tried to worry about a patient's breathing, when I was attempting to stop a killer bleed...I'd be initiating a post call review, immediately after we transferred care.
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 10:03:55 PM Alex J Rosario Likewise. I appreciate the untangling of the issue, good to know how others work!
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 10:07:27 PM Rich Palmer I think we are all three on the same page here. Just different labels for the same actions being taken.
Rich Palmer Rich Palmer Monday, July 21, 2014 10:08:23 PM Either way, there's no doubt at all that the man is not breathing. I'm 275#, and I am one hundred percent a belly breather, especially under stress. His chest, neck, belly... NONE of it is moving. He was not breathing for SEVERAL minutes. The police failed to check his breathing, which is why I feel all "peace" officers should have to have AT MINIMUM EMR certifications.
Rich Palmer Rich Palmer Monday, July 21, 2014 10:10:51 PM Donna Plumley Brubach His own department believes it was a choke hold. The commissioner said so.
Kyle Johnson Kyle Johnson Monday, July 21, 2014 10:11:20 PM Rich Palmer I'm wondering what the heck all these folks were thinking. EMS was on scene not long after....What were they doing?? It didn't look like anything was being done. Can't totally blame the officers, but hard to say without being there. I want a lot of help taking down a 400 pound dude, myself. But in the end, he did die. Everyone on scene could have probably done something different to change that.
Rich Palmer Rich Palmer Monday, July 21, 2014 10:14:25 PM Kyle Johnson Agreed, and the EMS failed to take control of the scene. His heart "may" have been beating, but he clearly wasn't breathing, and was comatose. I would have been demanding the cuffs off, and getting prepared to intubate, etc... He wasn't a danger at that point, and even if I thought he could be once he woke up, I would just have an officer or two ride to the hospital with me. I'm not afraid to make them attend their "perp".
Daniel Garrelts Daniel Garrelts Tuesday, July 22, 2014 8:21:14 AM Kyle, I did it as a collateral duty. I think I understand the confusion. There were ABCs for evaluating a casualty (which is what I was referring to originally) and ABCs for performing CPR. The 'C's in the acronyms stand for something different. ABC's of evaluation can be overruled by common sense like when a person is gushing blood. The only thing anyone checked for to see if there was circulation was his pulse and that's very inaccurate even for unaided medically trained personnel. All the other signs to check for circulation like capillary refill, movement, responsiveness, and eye fluttering were not existent. Think we're all on the same page now :)
Keene Hart Keene Hart Tuesday, July 22, 2014 7:11:24 PM what is sad is to watch the video when the paramedics arrive they do nothing No ALS No monitor, No CPR, His down time had to be short why did they not do anything shame on those medics
Ben Solomon Ben Solomon Tuesday, July 22, 2014 9:05:32 PM Aside from how he died, 1) don't be stupid and do illegal stuff and 2) at least be a man if you do, and accept the consequences rather than resist arrest and stuff
E.e. Riley E.e. Riley Wednesday, July 23, 2014 1:26:17 AM They're EMT-B, not paramedics; the medics came on scene off camera.
Steve Scott Steve Scott Thursday, July 24, 2014 4:32:47 AM Cab applies to Circulation. Meaning if you have a patientthat has aa majorlife tthreatening bleed, you address that first, if you go to compression on a major bleed all your doing is pumping the blood out
David Morgan David Morgan Friday, August 01, 2014 1:02:38 PM Now that the NY Medical Examiner has ruled this a Homicide with the cause of death being a choke hold lets have some real talk as EMS Professionals. Anyone fresh out of EMT class knows what breathing looks like, especially in a larger or heavier patient. This man stops breathing after being handcuffed on the ground and dies while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Lets disregard the statements made for the camera by the police that he is still breathing throughout the duration of the video since we as EMS Professionals can see that his chest is not moving. Lets talk about the crew that checks a pulse as part of their initial assessment and do not begin CPR, then scoops & loads the patient into the bus. What kind of charges do they face for providing no resuscitative care. Also, can we see the run sheet, did they indicate the patient had vital signs at any point and at what point do they document that their patient went into cardiac or respiratory arrest. We can all see in the above video that this is a 3 min clip but there are others out there that show how long he wasn't breathing prior to EMS arrival.
Melinda Teaster Williams Melinda Teaster Williams Sunday, August 03, 2014 6:58:44 AM he was selling cigarettes, not crack, holly cow This man was clearly not breathing shame on the medic's for not helping him.

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