The family of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was killed when a police officer put him in a chokehold, filed notice of a $75 million lawsuit on Wednesday.
The Associated Press reports the notice is the first legal step of the lawsuit, which will seek to hold the New York City police department and six officers responsible for the death of 43-year-old Garner, who was stopped on suspicion of selling cigarettes illegally.
Garner’s death — and the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, days later — sparked protests across the country, as many saw the two deaths as part of a larger trend of discriminatory policing and excessive force used against black men.
In Garner’s case, he told the police to leave him alone. He was placed in a chokehold, a move that’s prohibited by NYPD policy. A cellphone video by an onlooker shows the scene, with Garner — an asthmatic — gasping “I can’t breathe” as the officer choking him lowers him to the ground.
The city medical examiner found that the chokehold contributed to Garner’s death and ruled it a homicide. A grand jury will determine whether or not the city will bring criminal charges against the officers involved.
Another recent incident revived fears of systemic police abuse when a black man, Jamal Jones, was Tasered by cops during a traffic stop. He and his girlfriend, who was driving, were not wearing seat belts at the time. After being stopped by police, the woman called 911, telling the operator “I’m scared for my life.” Jones refused to exit the car, saying he feared for his safety. As two teenagers watched from the back seat, cops broke open the window and Tasered Jones, dragged him from the car before Tasering him again.