My Story With ‘Ask Dr. Renee’: “I Am Eric Garner” #ICantBreathe

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was killed in Staten Island, New York City, after a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer put him in a headlock for about 15 to 19 seconds while arresting him. NYPD policy prohibits the use of chokeholds. The officer denied choking Garner, but the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office report stated “Cause of Death: Compression of neck, compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police” and “Contributing Conditions: “Acute and chronic bronchial asthma; Obesity; Hypertensive cardiovascular disease”.

“I can’t breathe.”

I watched the video of Eric Garner and I felt for him because as a lifelong asthmatic I have said those three words more times than I can remember. Here was a man who was placed in a chokehold and said he couldn’t breathe and nothing was done to help him.

Anyone that knows me knows I steer clear of political discussions. But I watched the video of Eric Garner and I recall an incident when I was basically in a “chokehold” by the police.

I was pulled over in the middle of an asthma attack as I was driving home and he stopped me right outside. I asked nicely if I could please go get my machine because my inhaler was not helping anymore.

I could not breathe. I felt so suffocated I got out of the car and scared him half to death standing at 4 foot 11 inches.

He refused to let me get help, even though by the time he gave me the ticket I couldn’t even talk because of the coughing and wheezing. I SURVIVED!! Poor Eric Garner didn’t have a chance.

The cop did not show up to court when I fought my ticket, so it was thrown out. I am so proud of the peaceful protests all over the country, especially in Detroit and Chicago (my cities). #ICantBreathe #ICantBreathe – this is the same thing I told the officer over and over again.

Now there have been many stories in the news about Black men being killed at the hands of police officers. I am not a Black man and some reporters have said they were thugs and that is why they were shot. I am telling MY story to show that this can happen to anyone. I don’t consider any of them or myself a thug either. But I am Eric Garner.

Eric Garner was a 6 ft 3 in tall, 350-pound, 43-year-old African American man. He had been a horticulturist at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, but quit for health reasons. Garner, who was married to Esaw Garner, had been described by his friends as a “neighborhood peacemaker” and as a generous, congenial person. He was the father of six children, had three grandchildren, and at the time of his death had a 3-month-old child.

Garner had been arrested by the NYPD more than thirty times since 1980 on charges such as assault, resisting arrest, and grand larceny. According to an article in The New York Times many of these arrests had been for allegedly selling unlicensed cigarettes. In 2007, he filed a handwritten complaint in federal court accusing a police officer of conducting a cavity search of him on the street, “digging his fingers in my rectum in the middle of the street” while people passed by. Garner had, according to The New York Times,…