The New York Times published research that contains data regarding the number of deaths that occurred in police custody after detainees said, “I Can’t Breathe.” According to the report, at least 70 people have died in law enforcement custody after pleading that they couldn’t breathe. The victims ranged in age from 19 to 65. Even more troubling is that more than half of them were Black and came into contact with the police due to “nonviolent infractions.”
The NYT report from Mike Baker, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Manny Fernandez, and Michael LaForgia, also points out that not all cases involved police restraints. Instead, according to the report, many cases stem from the fact that law enforcement often doubts claims of having trouble breathing during an arrest. Instances of cops being spared of murder charges when a victim clearly expressed breathing difficulties is accurate for nearly ever example, despite autopsies repeatedly identified links between the actions of officers and the deaths of detainees who struggled for air. Government investigations often declared that the officers were justified in their actions.
The report mentions Byron Williams, who was murdered when police stopped him when his bicycle did not have lights on it. Officers used their hands and knees to pin him down, ignoring pleas of “I can’t breathe.” Eric Garner said the same three words in 2014 when he was murdered on the New York sidewalk for selling cigarettes. And most recently and now the most famous, George Floyd who was murdered when an officer held his knee against his neck after he allegedly paid at a deli with a counterfeit bill.