Back to IndieWire

Spike Lee Edits Footage of Black Man’s Death at Hands of Staten Island Police w/ Radio Raheem Scene from ‘Do The Right Thing’

Spike Lee Edits Footage of Black Man's Death at Hands of Staten Island Police w/ Radio Raheem Scene from 'Do The Right Thing'

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you’re likely familiar with (and even seen the video of) the Staten Island black man who died in police custody last week.

While the exact cause of 43-year-old Eric Garner’s death has not been determined, local protest organizers are calling for the firing/resignation of the officers (as well as the Police Commissioner) who were involved in the melee that led to Garner’s death.

Officials said Sunday that 2 EMTs and 2 paramedics were placed on “modified duty” pending an investigation into Garner’s death. 2 police officers have also been put on desk duty.

Video of the arrest shot by a bystander shows one officer wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck as he is taken to the ground, arrested for allegedly selling untaxed, loose cigarettes. Because selling untaxed cigarettes is high on the list of offenses ailing our communities. 

But witnesses (as well as Garner, before his death) denied the accusations, saying that Garner had actually just broken up a fight, when police arrived.

“He intervened and broke up the fight, and that’s when the cops pulled up, let the two guys walk away ,and kept their attention toward him,” a bystander said.

“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today,” Garner shouted out to the police, as they surrounded him. “I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone.”

Then, as 4 officers brought him down, pinning him to the ground, handcuffing him (the video shows 1 officer smashing Garner’s face into the pavement), Garner repeatedly tells them, “I can’t breathe!” Yet, none of the officers heeds his words. And moments later, Garner, unresponsive, dies.

“It’s crazy and I was like, ‘Perform CPR on him,’ and they was like, ‘He don’t need CPR,’” said Taisha Allen, who pulled out her phone to record the incident. “He was not breathing at the time.”

But officers said Garner was breathing.

EMTs can then be seen in the video briefly checking Garner’s condition and putting him on a gurney to take him to the hospital.

Police officials said Garner died of cardiac arrest while being transported to the hospital and that a preliminary investigation shows no damage to his windpipe.

The medical examiner’s office said in a statement that the “cause and manner” of Garner’s death are pending further studies.

The father of 6 children did suffer from asthma, his family said, adding that someone still needs to be held accountable for his death.

“He didn’t die because he stopped breathing on his own. He died because someone took his breath away,” his sister, Elissha Flagg, said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton demanded justice for Garner, during an appeal at Manhattan’s Riverside Church on Sunday.

Garner was “choked by New York City policemen,” Shaprton told the congregation. “What bothers me is that the nation watches a man say ‘I can’t breathe’ and the choking continues, and police surround him and none of them even say, ‘Wait a minute, stop! He can’t breathe!”’

For his part, director Spike Lee took the video of the incident, which went viral, and intercut scenes of Radio Raheem’s death sequence in his seminal 1989 film, “Do The Right Thing,” essentially holding up a mirror to reality, emphasizing how much his art seemingly imitates (or maybe I should say, reflects) real life – still, some 25 years later, since that film’s release. 

Spike shared the video on his Instagram and YouTube pages. Watch it embedded below.

Point made?

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged