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Community Furious As Investigation Continues In S.I. Man's Death In Police Custody

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The officer seen on cell phone video putting a Staten Island man in a choke hold has been placed on modified assignment by the NYPD pending further investigation after the man died while in police custody.

Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo has been stripped of his gun and shield as the NYPD continues to investigate the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, CBS 2's Matt Kozar reported.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch called the decision a "completely unwarranted, kneejerk reaction for political reasons and nothing more."

Lynch added that the move denies Pantaleo "the very benefit of a doubt that has long been part of the social contract that allows police officers to face the risks of this difficult and complex job."

Another officer involved in the take down was placed on desk duty, Kozar reported.

Community Furious As Investigation Continues In S.I. Man's Death In Police Custody

Meanwhile, Garner's friends and family joined Rev. Al Sharpton for a rally at the National Action Network on West 145th Street, calling for a full investigation.

A second rally was also held at the Mount Sinai Center for Community Enrichment on Jersey Street in Staten Island, followed by a march to the 120th Precinct police station, CBS 2's Scott Rapoport reported.

"The issue was how an unarmed man was subjected to a choke hold, and the result is he is no longer with us," Sharpton said at the National Action Network rally.

Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, was set to speak at the National Action Network rally, but found herself too emotional to do so. She collapsed on stage standing next to Sharpton, 1010 WINS' Roger Stern reported.

Sharpton said Garner's widow and mother spoke with Mayor Bill de Blasio by phone shortly after the rally, and told him they want justice.

"It was our contention that one – there needed to be an immediate investigation, but secondly, after you look at the video, and the use of this choke hold – which is against departmental procedure – there is no justification at all on this choke hold, and there is clearly no reason when a man is saying, 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe,' that you maintain this choke hold," Sharpton said.

Though Garner had a record of more than 30 arrests – mostly misdemeanors – for selling illegal cigarettes, his mother said he was never a dangerous person.

"My son never hurted a soul, never," Garner's mother, Gwen Carr told WCBS 880's Monica Miller.

Esaw Garner said her husband was not intimidating, and his bark was worse than his bite. Their family has been left to care for six children without their father.

"My son, my son is missing his dad. He's leaving for college on Aug. 5 on a full scholarship in basketball and his father didn't get to see him," she said.

Garner's mother told Rapoport there is one thing, above all else, that the family wants.

"We want justice. More than anything else, we want justice," Garner's mother said.

As CBS 2's Janelle Burrell reported, bystanders captured the arrest of Garner, who was taken into custody on Thursday for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island.

Community Furious As Investigation Continues In S.I. Man's Death In Police Custody

"What? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me," Garner says to an officer in the video before he is arrested. He went into cardiac arrest while being taken into custody and died soon afterward.

The final moments of Garner's life were alarming enough that even Mayor Bill de Blasio called them troubling.

"This is a terrible tragedy that occurred yesterday, a terrible tragedy that no family should have to experience," de Blasio told reporters on Friday.

Mayor de Blasio postponed his overseas vacation to focus on what happened.

City Community Affairs Unit Commissioner Marco Carrion also said a full investigation has been launched.

"We are working closely with (NYPD) Commissioner (Bill) Bratton, with the Staten Island DA, and we will get the answers," he said.

Garner, a married father of six, was trying to walk away from police, who had stopped him in front of 202 Bay St. on Staten Island for allegedly selling the untaxed cigarettes.

"Don't touch me, don't touch me," Garner says to the officers in the video.

After Garner told the officers to leave him alone, one of the officers seized Garner around the neck – pinning him to the ground. After that, Garner, who was asthmatic, is heard telling the officers he is in trouble.

"I can't breathe. I can't breathe," Garner is heard saying.

A short time later, Garner appears to be unconscious, the video shows.

He was taken to Richmond University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to police.

One woman said she saw the entire conversation unfold.

"He didn't deserve it," said bystander Dawn McGillivray. "He really didn't deserve to go like that."

Community Furious As Investigation Continues In S.I. Man's Death In Police Custody

Ramsey Orta, who recorded the cell phone video of Garner's arrest, told 1010 WINS' Gary Baumgarten he was worried the officers would turn on him for recording it.

Orta added that he's happy he shot the video because "Now justice can be served."

He said he believes had he not captured the arrest on video, there would be no investigation.

"It would have been swept right under the rug, right under the rug," Orta said. "Ain't nothing would of happened."

Commissioner Bratton said on Friday the incident would be investigated within the NYPD.

"Choke holds are in fact prohibited by the New York City Police Department because of the concerns of potential death arising from them," Bratton said.

The group Communities United for Police Reform issued a statement saying: "It's yet another example of unnecessary police encounters resulting from broken window-style policing that targets New Yorkers of color, in this case escalating with fatal consequences."

But the NYPD's union asked New Yorkers to reserve judgment until an investigation is completed.

On Saturday, PBA President Lynch called on elected officials, community leaders, and residents to give the police officers involved the "benefit of the doubt."

"That benefit of the doubt comes in the form of the time it takes to do a full investigation in order to gather all the facts before reaching a conclusion," Lynch said.

In the statement, Lynch said witnesses who are untrained in law enforcement procedures often misinterpret necessary force for excessive force.

"Force, by its very nature, is an ugly thing to witness," he said.

The case is being investigated by the NYPD's internal affairs unit, the New York City Medical Examiner's office and the Staten Island District Attorney's office.

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