De Blasio: Garner video ‘looked like a chokehold to me’

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Bill de Blasio. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the continuing controversy over the death of Eric Garner, during a press conference from his family vacation in Italy.

"As an individual who's not an expert in law enforcement, it looked like a chokehold to me," de Blasio told reporters in Rome, following a meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. (His spokeswoman Marti Adams provided the audio of the question-and-answer session with the press.)

The mayor delayed his Italian vacation by one day after the death of Garner, which was videotaped and disseminated on the internet, in which the 43-year-old man can be heard telling police officers he could not breathe, as they fought to restrain him on Staten Island on Thursday. Police said they were responding to complaints about him selling loose cigarettes.

Police commissioner Bill Bratton said on Friday that the video appeared to show a chokehold, which are prohibited by the department, but that he would await the results of an investigation.

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Asked if he wants the officers who were involved to be fired, de Blasio noted the NYPD has an "internal process" and that the incident is under investigation.

"Commissioner Bratton acted having looked at the facts, and, you know, it's quite clear that the chokehold has been prohibited for decades, but I leave the specific actions within the police department to Commissioner Bratton," de Blasio said. "I have absolute faith in his judgment. And, you know, I think the actions that have been taken show that there is a serious commitment to a full investigation and appropriate follow-through."

Two police officers and four emergency-medical personnel involved in the arrest have been placed on desk duty pending the results of the investigation, and the city's Civilian Complaint Review Board announced this weekend it will probe chokehold complaints over the past five-and-a-half years, calling the prohibited technique a "forbidden practice."

De Blasio intended to leave for Italy on Friday night but postponed the trip, and departed with his wife, Chirlane McCray, and two children on Saturday evening instead.

De Blasio on Monday spoke privately with Parolin, which he called a "really important and powerful meeting."

Following that, he met with Italian minister of foreign affairs Federica Mogherini at the Farnesina, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to his public schedule.

"There's an instant connection I feel because we share a philosophical core," he said of that event.

He and his family then met with former integration minister Cecile Kyenge in Rome. Kyenge was the first black Italian government minister. She, de Blasio and McCray dined at the Circolo Antico Tiro a Volo in Rome.

The family then headed to Capri, which the mayor called "the most beautiful place on Earth," before resuming public appearances later in the week as the mayor visits his ancestral hometowns.