Police have not released what led to Eric Garner being placed in handcuffs or why he was thought to be resisting arrest. His wife suspects, however, that he was likely selling illegal cigarettes, something that has caused him run-ins with the law and that he continues to do to supplement his income since he has a number of ailments that prevent him from working full-time.
A witness to the attack confirms that Garner's cigarette dealings were the cause of the confrontation but claims that Garner had just broken up a fight and was not actually selling cigarettes when the police approached.
The police did not believe Ramsey Orta, however, when he told them his friend was not to blame, and after back-up arrived they pounced on the the imposing 6′ 4″ man.
In a video Orta filmed, now obtained by the Daily News, Garner is heard telling police to leave him alone.
I didn't do s—!" Garner said as police approached him. "I was just minding my own business. Every time you see me you want to mess with me. I'm tired of it. It stops today!" he yelled.
After Garner refused to comply with being placed in handcuffs, he was placed in a chokehold.
Garner is then heard repeatedly screaming, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe."
Shortly thereafter, Garner collapsed.
Orta told the Daily News he now realizes he was videotaping the death of his friend.
"They jumped him and they were choking him. He was foaming at the mouth," Orta said, "And that's it, he was done. The cops were saying, 'no he's OK, he's OK." He wasn't OK."
Garner's wife, Esaw, said she knows her husband is a big man and sells illegal cigarettes, but that is no reason to choke him to death.
"He was out there hanging out. He sold cigarettes, but he was a good man," Esaw said of the father of 6. "He never hurt a soul. He was the sweetest, kindest person in the world."