The NYPD Has Fired The Officer Who Killed Eric Garner With A Chokehold

by Jo Yurcaba
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP/Shutterstock

A decision has been made in the case of the New York City police officer who put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold. The NYPD has fired Daniel Pantaleo, Commissioner James O'Neill said Monday in a news conference. O'Neill said the decision was made based on the recommendation of administrative Judge Rosemarie Maldonado, and that it was clear that Pantaleo could "no longer effectively serve" as a police officer.

The decision comes almost five years after Garner's death, which fueled nationwide protests against police brutality. In 2014, police tried to arrest Garner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island, according to CNN. Pantaleo tried to apprehend him, Garner reportedly resisted, and a viral video of the incident shows that Pantaleo put him in a chokehold that the NYPD banned in 1993 (Pantaleo has denied the use of a chokehold), and then forced Garner's head toward the ground. Prior to his death, Garner said “I can’t breathe” 11 times, according to The New York Times, a phrase that then became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter protesters and others who advocate for criminal justice reform.

In her opinion released in June, Maldonado called Pantaleo's denial of using the chokehold "untruthful" and "self-serving," and she blamed him for the "tragic outcome" that resulted. She said there was overwhelming evidence that Pantaleo used the prohibited chokehold and recommended that he be fired.

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During the Monday press conference, O'Neill said he would follow Maldonado's decision and that Pantaleo would be dismissed.

"It's an extremely difficult decision," O'Neill said. "If I was still a cop, I'd probably be mad at me... [but] it's my responsibility as police commissioner to look out for the city.”

Disciplinary proceedings for Pantaleo only began in May of this year, according to Vox. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has blamed a federal investigation into Garner's death for delaying the start of those proceedings. The U.S. Justice Department announced on July 16 that it would not bring federal charges against Pantaleo; previously, a grand jury in Staten Island also declined to bring charges against the former officer.

The delay of the decision has been heavily criticized by activists, including Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, who retweeted news articles about O'Neill's press conference on Monday. Garner's family reportedly received $5.9 million from New York City in a settlement from a wrongful death lawsuit in 2015, according to The Daily Beast.

Until Maldonado's decision in June, Panteleo was on desk duty, where he made a salary of $97,000, according to ABC News.

In a statement, Carmen Perez, an organizer with #ICANTBREATHE and co-founder of the Women's March, said Pantaleo's termination "is not an occasion 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 the 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."

Some activists on Twitter noted that Pantaleo's firing won't bring Garner back, but that it does show "the power of activism."