A New York City police officer involved in the arrest of a man who died in custody after being placed in an apparent chokehold has been stripped of his gun and badge and placed on desk duty, police said Saturday.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, an eight-year NYPD veteran, and an officer who has been with the force for four years were both taken off the street after the death Thursday of 43-year-old Eric Garner on Staten Island, a borough south of Manhattan, police said.
The department would not identify the second officer but said he would retain his gun and badge while on desk duty. The reassignment is effective immediately and will remain in effect while Garner's death is being investigated, police said.
Garner's wife was overcome with grief at a rally in his honor Saturday. Esaw Garner, 46, burst into tears and was escorted from the rally at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network headquarters in Harlem.
"This is going to be a real test to see where policies are in the city now and whether the change that we feel occurred has occurred," Sharpton said at the Saturday rally that drew hundreds of people.
Garner's death on Friday has prompted an investigation by the Staten Island District Attorney's office and caused Mayor Bill de Blasio to postpone a vacation while he talks with community leaders.
A passer-by captured the interaction between Eric Garner and police on video, and the tape shows Garner saying at least eight times "I can't breathe," as police appear to push his head into the ground. The 6-foot-3, 350-pound Garner, an asthmatic, later died.
Garner, who was black, was confronted by police trying to arrest him on suspicion of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk, authorities said. Garner denied the charges and refused to be handcuffed before one of the officers placed him in what Police Commissioner William Bratton said appeared to be a chokehold, according to partial video of the encounter obtained by the New York Daily News.
On Saturday, Sharpton referred to promises by the mayor and Police Commissioner William Bratton to improve the relationship between officers and the city's minority communities.
"We are the only ones in the social setup that has to deal with fear of cops and robbers," Sharpton said.
The mayor's community affairs representative attended the rally, where he reaffirmed the city's commitment to bettering strengthening police and community relations.
"We've said from the beginning: Police work best when they have the respect from the community," Community Affairs Commissioner Marco Carrion said.
At a news conference Friday, de Blasio called the death of Garner, a father of six and grandfather of two, "a terrible tragedy."
"Chokeholds are prohibited by the New York City Police Department and by most departments," Bratton said Friday.
Along with the district attorney, police internal affairs also will investigate, Bratton and de Blasio said.
More tests are needed to determine the exact cause and manner of Garner's death, the medical examiner's office said.
In the video, Garner, who has been arrested for selling illegal cigarettes numerous times in recent years, tells two officers he hasn't done anything wrong. "Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today," Garner shouts. "I'm minding my business. Please just leave me alone."
The conversation continues until Garner says, "Don't touch me," at which point an officer behind Garner appears to put him in a chokehold. Garner sinks quickly to the ground and four officers are on him.
Contributing: The Associated Press