‘I Can’t Breathe’ Survivor Settles Suit Against NYPD for $75,000

Chokeholds were officially banned more than 20 years ago in the New York City Police Department. They have not been allowed to use that maneuver since 1993, but several incidents have come to light, including one which led to the untimely passing of Eric Garner, whose death incurred outrage and protests across the United States.

A second man, a Brooklyn dad named Kevin Dennis-Palmer, who says cops put him into a chokehold on February 9, 2013, has settled his lawsuit against the city for $75,000, the Daily News has learned.

Dennis-Palmer says he was on his way home from his job as a first responder and attempting to parallel park in front of his Brooklyn neighborhood home, when a police officer put his lights on and came up to his window. When Dennis-Palmer asked what he had done, the officer replied for him to get his license and registration and then they would discuss it. Dennis-Palmer said he had a bad feeling as soon as that was said, and got out his cell phone to record the incident.

Things quickly went downhill, according to Dennis-Palmer. Sgt. Burt Antoine and Officer Ryan Monteleone called for back-up from six other officers, and began to mace Dennis-Palmer, although he said he doesn’t know why.

“My phone is slapped out of my hand. I’m Maced and then they’re trying to drag me out of the car and I’m telling them, ‘I’m stuck, I can’t get out of the car,’ because they were trying to pull me through the window.”

Dennis-Palmer is six-foot-three, and coming out the window was a difficult feat.

“I’m grabbed, basically by the back of my sweater, turned around and slammed down on the right side of my face. That’s when the melee ensues and everyone jumps on me. I’m yelling, ‘I can’t breathe — you’re choking me! Just put the handcuffs on! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”

He was taken to the 75th Precinct station house and booked for resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct, and having windows that were too dark, a claim he denies. Police said his phone was lost during the struggle.

The criminal charges were later dismissed, according to court papers, after Dennis-Palmer went to a local emergency room for treatment of his contusions, abrasions, and lacerations to his head. One eye was swollen completely shut.

His lawyer, Jeffrey Rothman, said the settlement is important not just for monetary reasons, even though the city and the NYPD did not acknowledge wrongdoing in the case.

“No one suit is what forces change. It’s the accumulation of them that fosters public awareness, and the public’s demand for accountability,” Rothman said.

Reflecting on the case of Garner, who had screamed the same horrifying sentence, “I can’t breathe,” Dennis-Palmer is grateful and sorrowed at the same time.

“It makes you realize how truly blessed you are to get out of that situation.”