After witnessing an NYPD sergeant choking an unarmed woman in the street, bystanders uploaded a video of the incident to YouTube. Although chokeholds have been banned for over two decades, Internal Affairs only began investigating the incident after the video recently resurfaced online.
Recorded by two witnesses driving down the street in Little Italy, the video depicts a woman fleeing from an NYPD sergeant when he suddenly grabs her by the throat and slams her against a red Nissan hatchback. With her arms at her sides and not resisting, the unarmed woman grimaces in pain as the sergeant continues to tightly grip her neck while speaking to another officer.
According to the NY Daily News, the video was originally posted on March 10, and recently resurfaced on YouTube by a different user. Although the NYPD refuse to release the date of the incident or the name of the sergeant involved, a police source has confirmed that the choking incident occurred at least two years ago and that the NYPD sergeant has been promoted to lieutenant.
“A preliminary review of the video revealed that this is not a recent incident, however it has been forwarded to Internal Affairs for further review,” a police spokesman stated.
On December 22, 1994, a year after the NYPD banned chokeholds, Officer Francis Livoti killed Anthony Baez with a chokehold in the Bronx. After a football accidentally hit his patrol car, Livoti arrested one of Baez’s brothers for disturbing the peace. As Baez argued with the officer, Livoti claimed Baez resisted arrest by crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against a parked car. Livoti placed Baez in a chokehold that resulted in his death.
After being acquitted for criminally negligent homicide in a state trial, Livoti was eventually convicted in federal court of depriving Baez of his civil rights. Livoti was sentenced to seven and a half years in federal prison.
“Members of the New York City Police Department will NOT use chokeholds,” Section 203-11 of the NYPD Patrol Guide states. “A chokehold shall include, but is not limited to, any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”
Due to the fact that the recorded choking incident took place at least two years ago, one cannot forget the disturbing images of Eric Garner’s last moments, repeating the words: “I can’t breathe.” According to city medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer, Garner was killed by neck compressions from the chokehold and during physical restraint by the police. She added that asthma, heart disease, and obesity had been contributing factors in the 43-year-old’s death. Garner left behind six children and two grandchildren.
Despite the fact that NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo was caught on cell phone video using a banned chokehold on July 17, 2014, resulting in Garner’s death, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict him. A federal grand jury is currently deciding whether to file criminal charges against Pantaleo and the other officers responsible for killing Garner.