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EMTs suspended over chokehold death

(ABC News) The four EMTs who responded to the scene where New York City cops had taken Eric Garner down after an apparent chokehold and he died an hour later have been suspended without pay while their actions are being investigated.

The Fire Department of New York, which handles citywide emergency medical dispatch, on Sunday barred them from responding to 911 calls. The latest move is by Richmond University Medical Center, which employs them. The hospital declined to explain the decision.

"The EMTs are suspended without pay while the investigation continues as they are placed on operational restriction," the hospital said in a statement announcing the move. "This restriction means they are not working at this hospital or throughout the 911 system. Richmond University Medical Center continues to fully cooperate as this matter is under investigation."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today told reporters that -- as a layman -- he thought a chokehold had been employed by a cop during the controversial caught-on-camera incident on Staten Island on Thursday.

"As an individual who's not expert in law enforcement, it looked like a chokehold to me. But I also emphasize you have a full investigation because all sides need to be heard and all evidence has to be looked at," de Blasio told reporters trailing him on vacation in Italy. Audio was provided to reporters in New York by the mayor's office.

The mayor left on Saturday night, after postponing his departure for a day to deal with the developing firestorm over Garner's death.

Garner, who was 6-foot-3 and roughly 350 pounds, died Thursday after police struggled to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island, according to the NYPD. Police said he appeared to suffer a heart attack.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo, an 8-year veteran who was seen in a video that has sparked outrage putting Garner in a chokehold, was placed on "modified assignment" Saturday, meaning he was stripped of his badge and gun, pending the outcome of the dual probes by the district attorney and Internal Affairs.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton had announced Friday that the cop and his partner were on "desk duty," but at that point they still had their guns and shields.

A chokehold is a violation of NYPD police, regardless of whether the move causes any damage, but beyond that, prosecutors and police investigators will be looking at whether it caused or contributed to Garner's death about an hour after he was taken into custody.

The New York City Medical Examiner's Office said Sunday it had not reached any finding on Garner's cause of death. Official preliminary results could come in the next few days.

 
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