NYPD Suspends Officer Who Killed Eric Garner After Judge Recommends He Should be Fired

People participate in a protest to mark the five year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner during a confrontation with a police officer in the borough of Staten Island on July 17, 2019, in New York City.
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

A New York administrative judge has found, like those of us with working eyes, that Daniel Pantaleo—the New York City police officer who used a banned chokehold when arresting Eric Garner for the domestic terrorist crime of selling loose cigarettes—should be fired.

According to NBC News, after the judge’s recommendation, the NYPD suspended Pantaleo Friday, but ultimately, the police commissioner will decide if Pantaleo will lose his job. That decision is expected later this month.

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“This has been a long battle. Five years too long. And finally, someone has said this cop has done something wrong,” Garner’s daughter, Emerald Garner Snipes, said at a news conference following news of the recommendation, NBC News reports.

Garner called for New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill to “do your job” and fire Pantaleo.

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“We don’t want to wait no more. Make your decision, Mr. O’Neill, as soon as possible,” she said.

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Pantaleo was the officer seen in cellphone footage in July 2014 with his arm around Garner’s neck, as the unarmed Staten Island man struggled to breathe. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Movement for Black Lives.

“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our City’s history,” the NYPD said in a statement.

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The city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board also urged the police commissioner to “uphold this verdict and dismiss Pantaleo.”

“Today’s decision confirms what the Civilian Complaint Review Board always maintained: Officer Daniel Pantaleo committed misconduct on July 17, 2014, and his actions caused the death of Eric Garner,” the statement read, NBC News reports.

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As expected, the city’s police union has painted the officer, who is alive and breathing normally, as the victim and called the judge’s recommendation “pure political insanity.”

“If it is allowed to stand, it will paralyze the NYPD for years to come,” big mad Patrick J. Lynch, president of the city’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said in a statement. Lynch claimed the judge “ignored evidence” and “trampled” on Pantaleo’s rights in order to deliver a recommendation that “politicians and protesters demanded,” NBC News reports.

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Lynch added: If the commissioner fires Pantaleo, he “will lose his police department,” which doesn’t sound threatening at all.

From NBC News:

The recommendation is the result of a departmental trial earlier this year, and comes days after Mayor Bill de Blasio was heckled on national television during a Democratic presidential debate with calls to “Fire Pantaleo.”

De Blasio said at a news conference Friday that the recommendation was a “step towards justice.”

“We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial. I hope this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace,” he said at the press conference that was interrupted by some people yelling, “Fire Pantaleo!”

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The news also comes just weeks after Trump’s Justice Department surprised no one by noting that it “would not bring federal civil rights or criminal charges against Pantaleo following a five-year investigation.”

Despite the chokehold being banned by NYPD, Garner’s death being captured on video and a medical examiner ruling Garner’s death a homicide, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in Garner’s death in August 2014.

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Pantaleo claims he put Garner in a legal move called a “seatbelt.” But as we all know, if a seatbelt moves around your throat, that restraining device can become deadly.

“Commissioner O’Neill owes it to the Garner family and all of New York to ensure that this will never happen again,” Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said Friday in a statement, NBC News reports.

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“When an officer violates their own policies and kills a person they were sworn to protect, it should not take five years for any measure of accountability.”

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About the author

Stephen A. Crockett Jr.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.