The widow of the man who died in a police chokehold last month called on prosecutors to take action during a Manhattan rally Saturday that included other family relatives and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
"I just want them to do the right thing and give me justice for my husband," said Esaw Garner, referring to Eric Gardner, who died July 17 while being restrained by police.
The group was applauding Friday's ruling by the city medical examiner that labeled Garner's death a homicide.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo and another officer tried to arrest Garner, a 6-foot-3, 350-pound father of six, for selling untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island street.
Video shot by a passer-by showed Pantaleo, an eight-year NYPD veteran, grabbing Garner, 43, around the neck as he and his partner wrestled him to the ground. Police rules forbid chokeholds. Garner was transported to a medical center, where he was pronounced dead.
Medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said Friday that Garner died from "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police." Asthma and heart disease contributed to his death, she said.
Ramsey Orta, a friend of Garner's who videotaped his struggle with police, said the medical examiner's ruling wasn't surprising.
"I knew that was the cause because I saw it," he said. "Now somebody should get charged."
At Saturday's rally, Gwen Carr, Garner's mother, said since her son's death she has woken up screaming, "Let him go! Give him air!" When she heard his death had been ruled a homicide, she said, her first words were, "Thank you, Jesus!"
The medical examiner's finding increases the likelihood the case will be presented to a grand jury to determine whether Pantaleo or any other officers involved in the confrontation will face criminal charges.
A spokesman for Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said prosecutors were still investigating the death and awaited a full autopsy report and death certificate from the medical examiner. Donovan will have to determine whether to impanel a grand jury and charge officers in Garner's death.
Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart London, declined to comment. Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and badge pending the investigation, and another officer was placed on desk duty. Two paramedics and two emergency medical technicians were suspended without pay for not responding to Garner's need for medical attention.
Sharpton announced an Aug. 23 march across the Verrazano Bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island to demand justice for Garner. He said the date was chosen because it is the 25th anniversary of the shooting death of Yusuf Hawkins, a black 16-year-old, at the hands of whites in Brooklyn.
"We cannot go back 25 years," Sharpton said. "Twenty-five years later in the name of Eric Garner we are going forward."
Contributing: Associated Press