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Widow of NYC man who died in police custody says he was not violent

By Curtis Skinner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The family of a man who died after being put in a choke hold by a New York City police officer remembered him on Saturday as being peaceful but constantly harassed by law enforcement.

Eric Garner, 43, died on July 17 after being tackled by police, who said he was resisting arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes in front of a beauty parlor on Staten Island. The incident was captured by two bystanders in widely circulated videos.

"My husband was not a violent man," his widow, Esaw Garner, said at a meeting held by Rev. Al Sharpton's civil rights group, the National Action Network.

But she said she feared for his safety because police hounded him.

"Every day, I said, 'Babe please don't let them cops kill you.' Every single day," she said. The widow wore a shirt emblazoned with the silhouette of her husband and the words, "This Stops Today," mirroring what Eric Garner said to police before they tackled him to the ground.

Her comments came a day after Sharpton and Garner's family met with federal prosecutors and urged them to launch a civil-rights investigation into the case. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said his office is closely monitoring the case.

Esaw Garner said she hoped the public outcry surrounding her husband's death would help bring justice for the family.

"He was a quiet man, but he's making a lot of noise now," she said.

Eric Garner's death poses a test for Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took office seven months ago promising to reform the police department and mend frayed relationships with the city's black and Latino communities.

In another instance of aggressive policing tactics in the city, a police spokeswoman said on Saturday the department and the Civilian Complaint Review Board were investigating an arrest that occurred in Brooklyn on Wednesday.

Video of that incident, published online by the New York Daily News, shows a police officer stomping on the head of a handcuffed and detained man.

The spokeswoman said officers were arresting Jahmiel Cuffee, 32, who has been charged with felony tampering with physical evidence, after seeing him with marijuana on the street. She said the involved officer has been reassigned pending results of the investigation, but did not name him.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Frances Kerry)

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