An unarmed Staten Island man died yesterday after police put him in a choke-hold and he shouted "I can't breathe!" at least nine times, New York reports. Eric Garner, 43, a father of six and a grandfather, can be seen in an eyewitness video standing on a street corner when police approached him. "Every time you see me, you're messing with me," said Garner, who stood six-foot-four and weighed over 300 pounds. "I'm tired of it. This stops today. ... Please just leave me alone." But officers moved in, pinning Garner down with a choke-hold and apparently slamming his head against the sidewalk, the Daily News reports. Garner, who suffered from chronic asthma, sleep apnea, and diabetes, was dead within minutes.
Police say Garner sold untaxed cigarettes, and had just been seen doing so. Garner was also due in court on three cases, including pot possession and illegal cigarette sales. But according to his wife, Esaw—and a friend of Garner's who shot the video—police really moved in because Garner had broken up a fight. Either way, Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed a full investigation (the New York Times notes that the NYPD rulebook forbids choke-holds). Meanwhile, Esaw sounds like she's still grasping what just happened. "When I kissed my husband this morning, I never thought it would be for the last time," she said. At the hospital, "I saw him with his eyes wide open and I said, 'Babe, don’t leave me, I need you.' But he was already gone." (Read more choke stories.)