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NY mayor delays Italy jaunt over police death crisis

19 july 2014, 13:09

New York's mayor was forced to postpone a criticized family holiday in Italy following the death of a man wrestled to the ground by police officers, AFP reports

Bill de Blasio had been set to jet off to Rome with his wife and two children on Friday night for a 10-day vacation to spend time with his family, embrace his Italian roots and meet officials.

But at 6pm his office released a terse, one-line email saying he had postponed departure until Saturday "in order to attend to city business."

An official at the press office refused to elaborate or provide further details when questioned by AFP, saying updates to the mayor's schedule would be provided when available.

Eric Garner, 43, suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead at hospital on Thursday after being tackled by two policemen for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes in a park on Staten Island.

De Blasio on Friday described Garner's death as a "terrible tragedy" and ordered a "full and thorough" police investigation.

New York police chief Bill Bratton confirmed there had been a physical struggle and that Garner "repeatedly complained of difficulty breathing as the officers wrestled him to the ground."

An ambulance was called but Garner went into cardiac arrest while en route to the hospital, he said. He was pronounced dead an hour later at hospital, Bratton told a news conference.

The district attorney's office is leading a criminal investigation and both police officers are assigned to desk duty pending the investigation, Bratton said.

A video of the incident appears to show them holding Garner in a chokehold, prohibited by New York police department because of concerns that it can cause potential death, Bratton admitted.

Even before the incident de Blasio courted criticism for what The New York Post last week described as "one of the longest overseas vacations taken by a recent mayor."

His predecessor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, often spent the weekend in Bermuda, but was rarely away during the week.

Former mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was in office during the 9/11 attacks, was recently quoted as telling local WABC Radio that it was not a job or a city you could run from "far away."

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