The memorial for NYPD chokehold death victim Eric Garner was destroyed by fire in the Staten Island borough of New York City, police and fire officials say.
Garner, 43, was the large black man who died this summer after being put into a fatal chokehold by a white New York City police officer. The makeshift memorial fire was ruled an “accidental candle fire.” by the New York Fire Department.
The fire came after Garner’s family had spent the day attending events across the city honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Cynthia Davis, a spokeswoman for the family, said they believe the blaze to have been an accident.
“The police department explained to me what happened,” said Davis, who works at the National Action Network. She said officers offered to show her surveillance footage of the memorial, which they said showed the memorial suddenly start to smoke. A passersby then saw it burst into flames and called 911.
Garner’s daughter Erica had said she suspected arson.
But the FDNY told HuffPost that it received a call for a “debris/rubbish fire” on the sidewalk outside 204 Bay Street at 10:23 p.m., and that the flames were extinguished by 10:41 p.m. The department said it has ruled the fire an “accidental candle fire.”
Davis said she, the Garner family, and the Rev. Al Sharpton had held a candlelight vigil at the memorial earlier Monday evening, but that people were carrying candles in their hands, and that there were no lit candles in the memorial itself.
It’s unclear who lit the candle that eventually set the memorial aflame.