NYPD fires officer in Eric Garner case

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The New York Police Department (NYPD) on Monday announced it is firing the police officer accused of killing Eric Garner in 2014.

“It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as an NYPD police officer,” police chief James O’Neill told reporters during a press conference.

{mosads}Garner, an unarmed black man, died after Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold while attempting to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes on the street.

A police administrative judge recommended the NYPD fire Pantaleo earlier this month, after federal prosecutors announced they would not be charging the officer in Garner’s 2014 death.

Footage of the arrest show Pantaleo placing Garner in a headlock. Garner is then heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” as he died.

His death helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement and led to calls for charges against Pantaleo.

A medical examiner who performed an autopsy testified that the officer’s chokehold led to a “lethal cascade” that resulted in Garner’s death.

{mosads}O’Neill, announcing the firing Monday, told reporters he “examined the totality of the circumstances and relied on the facts.”

“If I had been in Officer Pantaleo’s situation I may have made similar mistakes,” O’Neill said, according to the New York Daily News. “Being a police officer is one of the hardest jobs in the world.”

Garner’s younger daughter, Emerald Garner, said in statement that O’Neill took action against Pantaleo that was long overdue.

“You finally made a decision that should have been made five years ago,” she said in a statement shared with The Hill.

Emerald Garner previously launched a petition calling for Pantaleo to be fired. It had more than 142,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

Emerald Garner said Monday she will continue to push for a federal law prohibiting police from using chokeholds like the one that led to her father’s death.

Garner’s older daughter, Erica, who was a social justice activist, died in 2017 at the age of 27 after a heart attack.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said the decision showed how the NYPD’s process act fairly even after the U.S. Justice Department was “absent and unwilling to act” for “five long years.”

“Today we are finally seeing justice done,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said at a press conference following the NYPD’s announcement. “Today we saw the NYPD’s own disciplinary process act fairly and impartially.”

De Blasio added that the goal “is to make sure there never is another incident” like Garner’s. But if there, he said, the city would not turn to the Justice Department to handle the situation.

Garner’s death “must be the last time,” the mayor added.

New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, which prosecuted the internal charges that led to Pantaleo’s termination, said that given the evidence presented O’Neill had “no option but to dismiss Pantaleo.”

“Make no mistake: This process took entirely too long. And the tragic reality is that neither a verdict from a judge nor a decision by a police commissioner can reserve what happened on July 17, 204,” board Chair Fred Davie said in an emailed statement. 

“Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s termination from the New York City Police Department does not make the death of Eric Garner any less harrowing. But it is heartening to know that some element of justice has been served.”

But New York Police Benevolent Association (PBA) said O’Neill chose “politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead.”

“He has chosen to cringe in fear of the anti-police extremists, rather than standing up for New Yorkers who want a functioning police department, with cops who are empowered to protect them and their families,” PBA said in a statement shared on Twitter.

“With this decision, Commissioner O’Neill has opened the door for politicians to dictate the outcome of every single NYPD disciplinary proceeding, without any regard for the facts of the case of the police officers’ due process rights.”

Carmen Perez, organizer of the #ICantBreathe Campaign, said Pantaleo’s firing is not a reason to celebrate.

“While Eric Garner’s killer has finally been punished for his actions, albeit not in a court of law, the officers who assisted Pantaleo in aiding his attempted cover up have largely evaded justice,” Perez said in an emailed statement. “Today is a sad day, because the firing of a dishonest officer provides cover to the NYPD to continue resisting our continued calls for more accountability and transparency.”

Perez also slammed de Blasio, who she said will “no doubt” return to Iowa “rather than implementing reforms in the city he was elected to serve.”

— Updated at 2:40 p.m.

Tags Bill de Blasio Black Lives Matter Death of Eric Garner Police officer

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