NYPD fires cop blamed for death of Eric Garner
A protest by Black Lives Matter of Greater New York at the US Department of Justice in Washington on July 15, 2019. EFE/EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
New York, Aug 19 (efe-epa).- The head of the New York Police Department (NYPD) announced Monday the firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in the 2014 death of Eric Garner, an incident that led to massive protests against police brutality.
"It's an extremely difficult decision," Police Commissioner James O'Neill told a press conference Monday. "If I was still a cop, I'd probably be mad at me."
The commissioner referred to the three decades he spent as a uniform officer on patrol.
"I can tell you that had I been in Officer Pantaleo's situation, I may have made similar mistakes. But none of us can take back our decisions, particularly when they result in the death of another human being," O'Neill said.
Ultimately, the commissioner said, he was persuaded by the findings of an NYPD internal review that Pantaleo "can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer."
Deputy Commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado, who acted as judge in the NYPD disciplinary trial, recommended that Pantaleo should be dismissed for using a chokehold to restrain the African-American man and subsequently lying to investigators about his conduct during the confrontation.
Maldonado presented her report on Aug. 2.
Pantaleo, restricted to office duty since the July 17, 2014, incident, was suspended following the departmental trial.
Garner, 43, who was overweight and asthmatic, died after Pantaleo placed an arm against his neck while trying to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.
The episode, filmed by a passerby, sparked protests and anger in the city, which has witnessed a succession of cases where people - usually minorities - suffered death or injury at the hands of the NYPD.
Garner can be heard on the recording telling Pantaleo - who is white - and the other officers: "I can't breathe," and that phrase became a theme of demonstrations against police violence across the United States.
Though New York's medical examiner classified the death as a homicide, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo and the US Department of Justice announced last month that it would not bring federal civil rights charges against the officer.
Garner's family, who four years ago accepted a $5.9 million settlement from the city, have long called for Pantaleo's firing and welcomed Monday's announcement by O'Neill.
"I don't want another Eric Garner. I will do everything in my power to never see another Eric Garner," the victim's daughter, Emerald Snipes Garner, told reporters. "I don't even want to see another video of a person being choked out. Because it wasn't supposed to happen to him. It's not supposed to happen."
"I should not be here standing with my brother, fatherless. I should be standing here with my father. But Pantaleo took that away from me on 7/17. Yes, he's fired. But the fight is not over. We will continue to fight," she said.
Addressing O'Neill, Emerald Garner said: "I thank you for doing the right thing."
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, expressed satisfaction over Pantaleo's dismissal.
"Today, we have finally seen justice done. Today, we saw the NYPD's own disciplinary process act fairly and impartially," the mayor said.
"I hope today brings some small measure of closure. Today will not bring Eric Garner back, but I hope it brings some small measure of closure and peace to the Garner family," he said.
De Blasio had long faced demands to dismiss Pantaleo and protesters in the crowd at last month's Democratic presidential debate in Detroit directed shouts of "Fire Pantaleo" at the New York mayor. EFE