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Sharpton To Officers In Eric Garner Case: 'When Does Your Morality Kick In?'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The Rev. Al Sharpton gave a passionate speech Wednesday evening, as friends, family members, and community leaders came together to remember Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who who died while in police custody after a struggle.

To thunderous cheers at the Bethel Baptist Church in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, Sharpton argued that the officers involved in Garner's arrest last Thursday – one of whom appeared on video putting him in a choke hold – need to face more serious consequences than those that have been promised so far.

"The choke hold is illegal. But even if you lost your training memory, a man in your arm saying, 'I can't breathe' – when does your decency kick in? When does your morality kick in?" Sharpton said. "Let's not play games with this. You don't need no training to stop choking a man saying, 'I can't breathe.' You don't need no cultural orientation to stop choking a man saying, 'I can't breathe.' You need to be prosecuted."

Sharpton To Officers In Eric Garner Case: 'When Does Your Morality Kick In?'

PHOTOS: Eric Garner Funeral

Sharpton excoriated both the officers involved and the emergency medical personnel who responded after Garner was on the ground, who Sharpton said made no effort to revive him.

"Don't you know the definition of emergency?" he said.

Sharpton To Officers In Eric Garner Case: 'When Does Your Morality Kick In?'

As 1010 WINS' Holli Haerr reported, Sharpton talked about other cases where black men were killed by police or died in police custody, but noted that the Garner incident was videotaped.

"This time, we don't want no excuses, no back-biting," Sharpton said. "Go to the tape."

As CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez reported, others who spoke at the service likewise said they would not let Garner die in vain.

"We must take this as a call to ourselves," said the Rev. Chris Smith. "People will only do what we allow them to do to us."

Strangers also attended, including the families of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell – two men who also died in police-involved incidents.

"(Garner) loved his friends. He loved his community, and he would lend a helping hand to anyone he came into contact with," one woman said.

Public Advocate Letitia James also attended the funeral, and said her office will demand policy changes at the NYPD.

"I can say to you that we will demand justice in the city of New York. I say to you that there will be a full and complete investigation – not only of the use of choke holds, but all of the individuals who have filed complaints within the civilian complaint review board. I say to you tonight that we will demand that all street encounters going forward be videotaped in the city of New York so that we can avoid this from happening again. I say to you tonight that I join with police Commissioner Bratton in urging that every police officer be retrained, but more important than that, that they be culturally sensitive and respect the rights and dignity of all suspects and individuals," she said.

Family, Friends Say Final Farewell To Eric Garner, SI Man Who Died In Police Custody

Sharpton said he will begin meeting with the Garner family to begin pursuing a civil rights lawsuit against the NYPD.

The memorial service came a day after demonstrators marched through the streets on Tuesday to demand swift justice for the 43-year-old father of six.

An amateur video of Garner's arrest shows an officer putting him in a choke hold after he refuses to be handcuffed.

The tactic is banned by the NYPD, but has been the subject of more than 1,000 complaints to the city's Civilian Complaint Review Board over the last five years. But the technique is not illegal under state law.

Police were arresting Garner on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes.

The video of the arrest shows an officer putting his arm around Garner's neck as Garner is taken to the ground and his face is pushed into the sidewalk. Garner, before losing consciousness, is heard yelling repeatedly, "I can't breathe!''

A crowd gathered on the sidewalk during the funeral as tempers flared, WCBS 880's Alex Silverman reported.

Those attending the funeral hoped Garner's family would find some closure.

"I really hope that the family will be able to somehow get some strength together and come through this," said one of the mourners, Bishop Michael Clarke said before the funeral.

Longtime friend Earl Sims told 1010 WINS' Al Jones he feels a mixture of sorrow and anger.

"It's not right. It's not fair. We need justice – if we have to march, or whatever it takes just to do this right," Sims said.

Another friend of Garner's, Sakina Matthews, said repeatedly seeing the video of the police takedown of Garner has taken its toll.

"Over and over, no matter what channel I turned to, I couldn't get away from seeing the police murder my friend," Matthews said.

Sims and Matthews said they believe the choke hold killed Garner and said the officers involved should already have been arrested.

Even strangers came to the church to say their final farewells to Garner.

"I'm one of his mother's co-workers," said mourner Billy Turner. "I just wanted to pay, you know, respects to the family, you know. It's a shame what happened, but unfortunately, it happened."

"My heart goes out all the way out with them, because even though I'm not personally related to them, I feel connected to him because I'm connected to people that have been brutalized or killed by a police officer," said Donna Carter of Boerum Hill.

While most people in attendance were there to pay respects, Calvin Hunt had a message for the police officers lined up along the block outside of the funeral home, WCBS 880'a Silverman reported.

"You kill one of us, we'll kill one of y'all! And that's how it's going from here on out!" he said amidst a long rant directed at the officers.

When he failed to get a rise out of the officers, Hunt stepped inside the church and all was quiet again, Silverman reported.

The memorial service came a day after demonstrators marched through the streets on Tuesday to demand swift justice for the 43-year-old father of six.

Garner's sister, Ellisha Flagg, said at a vigil at Tompkinsville Park that the choke hold likely exacerbated the effects of the 6-foot-3, 350-pound Garner's asthma, a condition he battled since childhood.

"My brother even respected the police all the way to the end," she said. "He still has his hands up in the air. He even allowed them to take his breath and didn't fight back."

Autopsy results are pending in Garner's death. Police officials said Garner died while being transported to the hospital, but that a preliminary investigation shows no damage to his windpipe.

Four EMTs who responded to the call were suspended without pay pending the investigation, Richmond University Medical Center said.

Two police officers on the case have also been placed on modified duty. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who appeared to have put Garner in the choke hold, surrendered his gun and badge.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said Tuesday the police department would retrain its officers on the use of force.

Bratton: Review Of Officer Training Coming In Wake Of Eric Garner's Death

"The department needs to do a lot more in terms of training,'' Bratton said at a news conference. "A top to bottom review of all of the training that this department provides to its personnel, specifically focusing on use of force."

That training includes sending a team of officers next week to Los Angeles, where Bratton served as commissioner for seven years, to learn how that city's police department modified its use-of-force protocols after several high-profile episodes of brutality.

PBA president Patrick J. Lynch issued a statement saying the PBA is "always supportive of training that will improve safety and help us be better at our jobs," but said, "What we don't need is training that only tells us what we can't do when a person resists arrest."

"Our members (NYC police officers) need effective, clear and precise instruction regarding how to safely arrest an individual who is physically resisting that takes our officers out of harm's way both physically during the arrest and legally after the arrest," he said in the statement. "Otherwise, the job of a police officer will be impossible to do."

Bratton also said multiple investigations were underway in Garner's death and more are expected.

A criminal investigation already has been launched by the Staten Island District Attorney's Office, along with an internal police investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau.

Bratton also said Tuesday the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office will also likely launch federal investigations.

Garner's death has raised questions about the NYPD's embrace of the "broken windows'' theory of policing.

Critics say the theory, that low-grade lawlessness such as drinking in public and making graffiti can invite greater disorder including traffic fatalities and violent crime, can needlessly put nonviolent people at risk and fuel tensions in minority communities.

Such enforcement "leads to confrontations like this,'' City Councilwoman Inez Barron said at a news conference about Garner's death.

Bratton vowed to stick with the program, saying the NYPD plans to next target illegal vendors who rent bikes in Central Park.

He credited a similar crackdown on subway fare beaters in the 1990s with being the "tipping point'' for a drastic reduction in overall crime in the subway trains.

Garner had been arrested 31 times since 1988 on charges including drug possession, assault and selling untaxed cigarettes, according to police.

He was facing two open untaxed-cigarette cases, plus a third case in which prosecutors dropped that charge but were still pursuing unlicensed driving and marijuana possession charges stemming from an August 2013 car stop, court records show.

He was fighting them all, his attorneys said.

In 2007, he filed a lawsuit against a NYPD cop charging his civil rights were violated during a strip search. The case was dismissed because of a technicality. Garner had not updated the court with his current address.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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