In 2014, Eric Garner was held in a police chokehold on Staten Island despite repeatedly telling the officers "I can't breathe." The illegal chokehold took Garner's life; the coroner would later give "Compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police" as his cause of death. Now, history seems to be repeating itself.
Andrew Kearse, a 40-year-old father of nine, died on May 11th, 2017, in the back of a police car, despite repeatedly telling his arresting officers "I can't breathe."
A dash-cam captured the last moments of Kearse's life. Officers could be heard to mock him as he insisted he needed help:
Kearse: Please, please, sir. I can’t breathe! Please! Sir! Yo!
Officer: Is it hot? You probably shouldn’t run next time.
Kearse's widow, Angelique Negroni-Kearse, was overwhelmed by the footage and told the Daily News:
It was the most horrendous thing I’ve ever seen in my life. To see death on his face — it was horrible...To see him die is just horrible. Pleading and begging for his life ... just begging for his life, and the officers just ignored him.
The death of another black man in NYC echoes the same words of Eric Garner.— le plug 🇭🇹 (@HantzleyxA) February 15, 2018
“I can’t breathe”
On this black history month, understand that the system is working as intended. This is what white supremacy looks like. Utter lack of humanity#SoundCloud https://t.co/FcPXJDf82t
Negroni-Kearse has begun the process of filing a lawsuit against the police for $25 million, claiming her husband died despite "repeated and numerous complaints of difficulty breathing and dizziness." She elaborated on her motivations to the Daily News:
I want justice for Andrew and I want that cop to go to jail. You can hear my husband in distress. He was in the backseat, handuffed, gasping for air.
Citizens are outraged at Kearse's needless death. Protests have been staged all around Schenectady by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Kearse was released from prison 15 days earlier. He was on parole for charges of grand larceny, and officers attempted to pull him over for driving erratically. Kearse then attempted to escape on foot, but was captured and loaded into the back of the squad car where he died.
A coroner has performed an autopsy on Kearse, but the results (including his cause of death) have not been made public, so it's unknown whether officers would have been able to save Kearse even if they had responded as soon as he told them he couldn't breathe. Regardless, an attempt should have been made to help Kearse, if for no other reason than to ensure he was treated humanely in his last moments, instead of mocked and ignored.
R.I.P. Andrew Kearse. Hopefully we can learn something from your passing.