Attorney General's Special Investigations And Prosecutions Unit Releases Report On The Death Of Ariel Galarza
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit (SIPU) released a comprehensive report on its investigation into the death of Ariel Galarza in Bronx County in November 2016. The investigation, led by Chief of the Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit Alvin Bragg, found no criminal culpability in the death of Mr. Galarza.
According to the report, on November 2, 2016, NYPD officers responded to a 911 call from another resident of Mr. Galarza’s building, who said that Mr. Galarza had been brandishing a knife and screaming. When the officers arrived, they found Mr. Galarza in his basement apartment holding a 12-ounce glass bottle. When ordered to lie down on the floor, Mr. Galarza stood up and lifted the bottle in the air, within eight feet of the NYPD sergeant.
When Mr. Galarza ignored orders to drop the bottle, the sergeant deployed a taser and delivered a five-second electric charge. Mr. Galarza continued to struggle with the officers as they attempted to handcuff him; the sergeant activated the taser two more times for five seconds each, before the officers were able to restrain Mr. Galarza. After he was handcuffed, Mr. Galarza lost consciousness and his heart stopped beating. EMS personnel arrived within minutes and were able to restore a heartbeat; however, once at the hospital, emergency room physicians were unable to maintain a normal heart rhythm and Mr. Galarza was pronounced deceased.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy, and SIPU also retained an independent forensic pathologist to conduct a separate autopsy. OCME and the independent expert separately reached similar conclusions that Mr. Galarza died of cardiac arrest resulting from a combination of a preexisting heart condition, drug intoxication, and obesity, combined with the effects of physical exertion, restraint, and the use of the taser.
During a subsequent search of the apartment, officers recovered the glass bottle and two butcher knives.
In light of all the evidence – including that Mr. Galarza was threatening the officers with a glass bottle, and that a police officer may justifiably use reasonable force in order to protect himself against the imminent use of unlawful force against himself or another person, or to effect an arrest - SIPU found that criminal charges against the responding officers were not warranted.
SIPU’s investigation took into account statements by civilian witnesses, as well as NYPD and emergency medical personnel who responded to the scene; autopsy and toxicology reports from the OCME and independent forensic pathologist; Mr. Galarza’s medical records; the report generated by the taser used during the incident; and the NYPD records, including the 911 recording.
“We send our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Galarza, whose death was a tragedy,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We remain committed to following the facts and providing exhaustive and transparent accounting of all cases we investigate under the executive order.”
The report was produced as part of the Attorney General’s role as the state’s special prosecutor. In July 2015, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 147, appointing the Attorney General to that role to oversee investigations into incidents where unarmed civilians die during interactions with police, or incidents where there is significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous. In cases in which it’s determined that charges are not warranted, the Attorney General’s office releases a comprehensive report that details the findings of its investigation, as part of its commitment to transparency.