People participate in a demonstration against the death of Eric Garner after he was taken into police custody in Staten Island.

Story highlights

Medical examiner's office: Death of Ronald Singleton, who died in police custody, is ruled a homicide

His death occurred four days before controversial choke-hold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island

Garner's death police sparked national outrage and calls for a federal civil rights investigation

New York CNN  — 

The death last month of a man who struggled with police while being taken into custody in Manhattan has been ruled a homicide, the medical examiner’s officer said.

Ronald Singleton, 45, died in police custody on July 13, four days before a man in Staten Island died after police put him in a choke hold, a case that sparked national outrage. The Staten Island death also was declared a homicide, and is under investigation.

In the statement Friday, the medical examiner’s office declared the manner of death in the Singleton case as homicide caused by the “physical restraint by police during excited delirium due to acute phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication,” said Julie Bolcer, spokeswoman for the medical examiner.

Singleton, who was African-American, was taken into police custody after a yellow cab driver flagged down a police officer near St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, police said in a statement. The cab driver claimed the passenger was “acting overly irate and irrational, cursing and screaming and causing alarm,” according to the statement.

Singleton got out of the taxi and “became combative with the officer, trying to fight with him,” the police statement said.

The officer called for help and other officers responded along with members of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit.

Singleton was placed in a “protective body wrap by the ESU officers,” the police statement said.

An ambulance was taking Singleton to a hospital when he went into cardiac arrest, the statement said. Singleton was dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

The NYPD said it was cooperating with the Manhattan district attorney’s office investigation of the death.

The medical examiner’s office said factors such as “hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease” and obesity contributed to Singleton’s death, according to Bolcer.

The case went unnoticed by national media, unlike the death of Eric Garner four days later. He died after being put in a choke hold by a NYPD officer while being arrested for selling cigarettes illegally.

Garner’s death sparked protests and calls for federal civil rights charges against the officer who took down the 43-year-old, 350-pound man with an illegal choke hold.

A cell phone video of the incident shows Garner waving both hands in the air and telling the officers not to touch him. Seconds later, an officer behind Garner grabs him in a choke hold and pulls him to the sidewalk, then rolls him over onto his stomach.

“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Garner is heard saying repeatedly, his cries muffled into the pavement.

The cause of Garner’s death was “compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” according to Bolcer. The death was ruled a homicide.

Garner’s death occurred just weeks before Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9.

Both cases fueled protests and thrust into the forefront the issue of law enforcement’s use of deadly force against people who are unarmed.

Police chokehold death sparks protest march