Five years after “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry for police accountability in light of the unnecessary death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, comes the news that the officer responsible, Daniel Pantaleo, has been fired.
According to the Washington Post, NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill made the announcement on Monday, weeks after a departmental disciplinary judge recommended that Pantaleo be terminated from the police force. Following that recommendation, Pantaleo was suspended indefinitely.
O’Neil admitted that what should’ve been an easy decision was “extremely difficult” but that Pantaleo had to be held accountable for his actions.
“In this case the unintended consequence of Mr. Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own,” O’Neill said. “It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”
O’Neill also said that he reached two conclusions after watching the widely circulated video in which Garner is wrestled to the ground and put in an illegal chokehold by Pantaleo: that Garner would’ve likely received a summons instead of being arrested had he complied with officers and that while Pantaleo initially utilized “approved techniques,” the chokehold that stole Garner’s life was prohibited.
“Cops have to make choices, sometimes very quickly,” said O’Neill. “Those decisions are scrutinized and second-guessed, both fairly and unfairly.”
In response to this news, Emerald Snipes Garner, Eric Garner’s youngest daughter, issued the following statement to The Root:
“I thank everybody who has been standing with my family for the past 5 years, and everyone who’s been screaming ‘Fire Pantaleo!’ To Commissioner O’Neill, I thank you for firing Officer Pantaleo. You finally made a decision that should have been made 5 years ago.”
Emerald has every intention to continue to rail against police brutality and hold officers accountable for their behavior, including prohibiting the use of chokeholds throughout the country.
“I don’t want another Eric Garner,” she said in her statement. “I will do everything in my power to stop [there from being] another Eric Garner.”
Social media has been flooded with reactions as well, as countless users and prominent figures have shared their thoughts on Pantaleo’s long overdue firing.
While Pantaleo’s firing is a step in the right direction, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg and serves as a reminder of the work that still lies ahead.