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Eric Garner Remembered as Family Man at Packed Brooklyn Funeral

By Nicholas Rizzi | July 24, 2014 7:15am
 Eric Garner, 43, was remember Wednesday July 23, 2014 during his funeral at Bethel Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Garner, a father of six children, died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes.
Eric Garner funeral
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BOERUM HILL — Eric Garner was a dedicated father too stubborn to let asthma get in the way of his life.

Hundreds of relatives and friends packed into Bethel Baptist Church in Boerum Hill Wednesday night to mourn the 43-year-old father of six, who died last week after a confrontation with police who tried to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island.

His wife had to be helped as she walked to view his casket in front of the altar, where she collapsed clutching Garner's body.

He was remembered by family and friends as a "gentle giant" who was always there for his family.

"My father never missed a birthday," his daughter Erica said at the funeral. "The only thing my daughter asked for was Pop-Pop and a birthday cake. I don't know how can I explain to her that Pop-Pop this year is not bringing the cake."

Garner also enjoyed working on cars and visiting Coney Island with his 90-year-old aunt, according to family at the service.

Several elected officials and the Rev. Al Sharpton also paid their respects to Garner at the service.

In his eulogy, Sharpton singled out Ramsey Ortiz — who shot the video of Garner's arrest — for praise and promised he would fight for justice.

"We can't live in a country where you can now choke us," Sharpton said. "We're not going to stop until we get justice."

Sharpton said that he and Ortiz would be meeting with federal attorneys next week about the case.

On Thursday, Garner was wrestled to the ground and put in an apparent chokehold while officers from the 120th Precinct arrested him outside of 202 Bay St.

Witnesses said that Garner had just broken up a fight across the street, then returned to his post and was approached by police.

Video obtained by the Daily News shows Garner saying "I can't breathe" at least 11 times as an officer pushes his head to the concrete.

A video later posted to YouTube shows officers standing around Garner while waiting for EMTs to arrive. When they show up, nobody can be seen giving Garner any aid, except for checking his pulse.

Police officer Daniel Pantaleo was stripped of his badge and gun and put on desk duty while Garner's death is being investigated.

Four EMTs, who work for Richmond University Medical Center, were also barred from responding to any ambulance calls during the investigation, the New York Post reported.

The NYPD launched an investigation into the arrest, and on Tuesday Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said they would do a "top to bottom review" on the NYPD training, especially in the use of force.

Public Advocate Leticia James said at the service that she will be pushing the NYPD to videotape every interaction they have with suspects in the wake of Garner's death. 

Garner's death prompted the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) to launch a comprehensive study into the use of chokeholds by the NYPD from 2009 to 2013. In that time period, the CCRB got 1,022 complaints of chokeholds, and nine substantiated cases.