In 2014, Eric Garner lost his life at the hands of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. Five years later, the officer will face a trial that could lose him his job.
Pantaleo’s trial is set to begin Monday at Police Department headquarters, according to the New York Times. The trial has long been awaited by Garner’s family, who were awarded a settlement of more than $5 million after a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against Pantaleo.
Pantaleo’s conduct was also reviewed by the Civil Complaint Review Board, an independent city agency that integrates allegations of police misconduct. They recommended him removed from the police force.
Pantaleo, 33, faces charges of reckless use of a chokehold and intentional restriction of breathing, though his attorney insists he did not use a chokehold, but a different technique known as a seatbelt, which is taught to officers in training.
The NYPD banned the chokehold in 1993 in light of growing concerns over a rising number of civilian deaths while in police custody. In 2016, that ban was weakened when the department added an exception making it acceptable under certain circumstances.
Thursday, a Police Department judge presiding over the trial said prosecutors would be tasked with proving that Pantaleo’s actions went beyond a mere violation of department rules, constituting a crime.
Garner, who had repeated run-ins with the police before the day he was murdered, told officers to leave him alone after they approached him outside of a beauty supply store. The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide after Pantaleo positioned his arm under Garner’s neck with another under his left arm, dragging him to the ground while he begged for air, in fact saying, “I can’t breathe,” at least 11 times.
“Those who have been able to not come to a rushed judgment,” said Stuart London, a police union lawyer representing Pantaleo. “But have looked at the video in explicit detail, see Pantaleo’s intent and objective was to take him down pursuant to how he was taught by NYPD, control him when they got on the ground, and then have him cuffed.
“There was never any intent for him to exert pressure on his neck and choke him out the way the case has been portrayed,” he added.
The trial is expected to last two weeks, with about a dozen witnesses expected to be called. At trial’s end, Deputy Commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado will decide Pantaleo’s guilt.