FILE - In this May 13, 2019, file photo New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house Monday, May 13, 2019, in Staten Island, N.Y. New York City’s police commissioner has scheduled a midday news conference as the city waits for his decision on whether to fire Pantaleo, a police officer involved in the 2014 death of an unarmed black man. Police commissioner James O’Neill said he would make an announcement at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, on an undisclosed topic. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)

NYPD fires officer for 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner

Daniel Pantaleo’s chokehold raised questions about race and use of force by police

After five years of investigations and protests, the New York City Police Department on Monday fired an officer involved in the 2014 chokehold death of the black man whose dying cries of “I can’t breathe” fueled a national debate over race and police use of force.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill’s said he fired Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, based on a recent recommendation of a department disciplinary judge. He said it was clear Pantaleo “can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”

“None of us can take back our decisions,” O’Neill said, “especially when they lead to the death of another human being.”

Asked whether Mayor Bill de Blasio forced his hand, O’Neill said the dismissal was his choice. “This is the decision that the police commissioner makes,” he said, calling Eric Garner’s death an “irreversible tragedy” that “must have a consequence.”

The president of the police union, Patrick Lynch, accused O’Neill of choosing “politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead.”

Lynch urged police officers to “proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed ‘reckless’ just for doing their job.”

“Now it is time for every police officer in this city to make their own choice,” he said in a statement. “We will uphold our oath, but we cannot and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety.”

Video of the confrontation led to years of protests and calls by black activists and liberal politicians for Pantaleo to lose his job. City officials had long insisted that they could not take action until criminal investigations were complete.

A state grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in 2014. Federal authorities, however, kept a civil rights investigation open for five years before announcing last month they would not bring charges.

Pantaleo’s lawyer has insisted the officer used a reasonable amount of force and did not mean to hurt Garner.

O’Neill said Pantaleo initially placed Garner in a chokehold as the two men stumbled backward into a glass window. That, he said, was understandable, given the struggle.

But after the officers got Garner on the ground, Pantaleo did not relax his grip but “kept his hands clasped and maintained the chokehold.” That, he said, was the mistake that cost him his job.

“That exigent circumstance no longer existed when they moved to the ground,” O’Neill said.

Garner’s death came at a time of a growing public outcry over police killings of unarmed black men that sparked the national Black Lives Matter movement.

Just weeks later, protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown. And later in 2014, a man angry about the Garner and Brown cases shot two New York City police officers to death in their cruiser in retribution.

De Blasio never said whether he believed Pantaleo should lose his job but promised “justice” to the slain man’s family.

At a recent administrative trial at police headquarters, Pantaleo’s lawyers argued he used an approved “seat belt” technique to subdue Garner, who refused to be handcuffed after officers accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes.

In a bystander’s video, it appeared that Pantaleo initially tried to use two approved restraint tactics on Garner, who was much larger at 6-foot-2 (188 centimetres) and about 400 pounds (180 kilograms), but ended up wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck for about seven seconds as they struggled against a glass storefront window and fell to the sidewalk.

The footage showed Garner, who was 43 at the time, crying out, “I can’t breathe,” at least 11 times before he fell unconscious. The medical examiner’s office said a chokehold contributed to Garner’s death.

Questions about the handling of the case have dogged de Blasio during his longshot run for president, with some protesters at the recent debate in Detroit chanting, “Fire Pantaleo.”

ALSO READ: Oppenheimer Park residents told to leave, clear out tents by Aug. 21

Tom Hays And Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VicPD investigates stabbing near Selkirk Montessori school

Victim in potentially life-threatening condition

John Horgan promises action after fatal mid-Island bus crash

Premier cites students, local Indigneous community as reason to repair the road

Victoria man spots online photo of his totem pole 11 years after it was stolen

Mark Trueman restored the pole himself before it was stolen off of his property in Duncan

VIDEO: Trudeau asks Canada to look to current, not past, actions on race

Liberal leader says he never spoke about the racist photo because he was embarrassed

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should the province step in to upgrade the road to Bamfield?

The death of two University of Victoria students on a bus bound… Continue reading

Legislature gifts, clothing, travel need better control, B.C. auditor says

Audit follows suspensions of managers by Speaker Darryl Plecas

‘Really disturbing:’ Trudeau’s racist photos worry B.C. First Nation chief

Wet’suwet’en Chief concerned the photos will sow fear in Indigenous communities

‘Unacceptable’: What politicians have to say about Trudeau in blackface

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi: ‘When I saw that picture last night, certainly it was a sucker-punch’

Island contestant competes on Great Canadian Baking Show

Andrea Nauta auditioned for the show before but was lucky second time around

VIDEO: B.C. man accused of assaulting sex worker loses temper in interrogation

Defence lawyer says statements made by accused Curtis Sagmoen should be deemed inadmissible

Teens charged in stabbing death of B.C. man in strip mall parking lot

Two youths, aged 15 and 16, charged in Aug. 16 killing of South Surrey’s Paul Prestbakmo

Most Read