Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) is hailing Wednesday's grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer in the death of a black New Yorker during a physical arrest in August.
"You had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest. The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible," King told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this. ... The police had no reason to know he was in serious condition,” King added.
Some Democrats are outraged following the decision surrounding the incident that was captured on video and showed New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo applying a chokehold on Eric Garner during the deadly confrontation.
But the New York lawmaker said criticism is misplaced, arguing that Garner's weight and multiple medical conditions are to blame for the tragic ending.
Wednesday's decision came less than two weeks after another grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against a white Missouri police officer in the August shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in a St. Louis suburb.
That episode led to riots in Ferguson, Mo., drew a sharp rebuke from numerous lawmakers on Capitol Hill — most notably the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) — and prompted President Obama to call for strict new policies surrounding law enforcement tactics.
In the wake of the Garner decision, the debate over race, excessive force by police and the grand jury system is being replayed along similar lines.
CBC members were quick to express their outrage, with several from New York staging a hasty press conference to condemn the decision.
"We renew our call for the Department of Justice to step in today to commence an immediate investigation," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
Black lawmakers were not alone in their criticism.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, said the decision leaves the country "mourn[ing] for justice." And Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called the verdict "almost unfathomable."
"Here you have a case of a video tape of an officer using an illegal chokehold — a hold that is known to be able to cause death, a hold that is illegal for cops to use — which caused the death of Eric Garner," he said in a statement. "It is hard to understand how there cannot be probable cause that a crime was committed, especially when there is a videotape.
"The fact that there won’t even be a trial is shocking," he added.
But King questioned whether a chokehold was ever applied, noting that Garner was heard talking on the video during the arrest.
“The fact of the matter is, if you can’t breathe, you can’t talk,” he said.
"I don't know where the racial angle comes in. I have no doubt that if it was a 350-pound white guy, he would have been treated the same."