NYC Pays $1,500,000 to Family of Man Who Screamed ‘I Can’t Breathe’ and Died in Police Custody

Angela Bronner Helm
Stanley Streeter, who died in police custody on March 16, 2010, in Staten Island, N.Y.
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Four years before Eric Garner died after an altercation with New York City police officers on Staten Island, N.Y., another man also died in the same neighborhood, his last words eerily echoing Garner’s: “I can’t breathe.”

The New York Daily News reports that New York City has agreed to pay $1.5 million to Stanley Streeter’s fiancee to settle a federal lawsuit alleging wrongful death and excessive police force.


The News reports that Streeter’s death occurred March 16, 2010, and went largely unnoticed—unlike the death of Eric Garner, which would bring tens of thousands into the streets of New York to proclaim that Black Lives Matter. Perhaps because Garner’s last breaths were captured on video.

“Like Garner, Stanley screamed that he couldn’t breathe when multiple police officers held him on the ground in a facedown position for 30 minutes while they waited for the Emergency Services Unit,” said lawyer Brett Klein.

“While the Police Department did not mete out any punishment whatsoever for the misconduct in this case, the settlement reflects a small measure of justice and closure for Mr. Streeter’s grieving family,” Klein added.

The News reports that Streeter, 36, had suffered a mental breakdown and was being transported from the psychiatric emergency room for treatment of his alarmingly high blood pressure. During the ride, he unbuckled himself from the gurney and stepped out of the ambulance.


The cops claimed that they handcuffed Streeter after an “immense struggle” and needed ESU to respond with a restraining blanket to "bag" him, according to court papers.

A witness, Marvin Liverman, testified in a sworn deposition that Streeter was in distress.


“He just said, ‘I can't breathe, man, I can’t breathe, I can't breathe,’” Liverman said, according to a transcript. “There were two police over him; one had his knee on [Streeter's] lower back and the other one had the knee on his neck.”

The autopsy report noted that Streeter had a broken tooth and blunt-impact injuries, his face was coated with soil, and dirt was found between his teeth and in his eyes.


A federal judge rejected the city’s motion to toss the suit last spring.

“The issue is whether continuing to forcefully restrain Streeter, facedown in a prone position as the minutes ticked away—when the officers were fully aware that Streeter had dangerously high blood pressure and could not breathe—raises an issue of fact as to whether at some point the officers possessed sufficiently culpable mental state” to put the evidence before a jury, wrote Judge Carol Amon in her decision.


A spokesman for the city's Law Department said that the settlement was in the city’s best interest.

Read more at the New York Daily News.

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