Though he acknowledged that Eric Garner's death was tragic, Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer last night that Garner would not have died during an arrest by NYPD officers had he been more physically fit.
"You had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest," King said. "If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, he almost definitely would not have died from this."
King might be one of the first defenders of the grand jury decision to point out Garner's size, but something tells me he won't be the last. King's remarks echo the disturbing exaggeration of Michael Brown's size and strength throughout the recent (and similar) Ferguson case.
It's worth remembering that the coroner's report said Garner died of “compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest, and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.” It also ruled his death a homicide.
There have been several deaths linked to chokeholds by NYPD officers in the past few decades, even though the practice was formally banned by the department in the early 1990s. Surely asthma and weight are not to blame for all of them.
A suspect's visible medical condition should make police behave with more, not less, caution during an arrest.
Garner was obese. He is also dead. The first does not excuse the second.