Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer accused of holding Eric Garner in a chokehold during his fatal arrest, was fired on Monday, over five years after the incident sparked a national outcry against police brutality and became a defining moment in the Black Lives Matter movement, The New York Times reports. New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced the dismissal just two weeks after a police administrative judge found Pantaleo guilty of using a banned chokehold against Garner.
“The unintended consequence of Mr. Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own,” Mr. O’Neill said during a press conference. “Therefore I agree with the deputy commissioner of trial’s legal findings and recommendations. It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”
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Garner died on July 17th, 2014 following an altercation that was captured on cell phone video and quickly went viral. Officers confronted the 43-year-old African-American on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk; footage shows Pantaleo applying the chokehold and bringing him to the ground, before Garner repeated his dying words, “I can’t breathe,” 11 times. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital over an hour later, and the New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide.
Both a Staten Island grand jury and federal prosecutors declined to charge Pantaleo with a crime prior to the administrative judge recommending he be fired. According to that August 2nd ruling, obtained by The New York Times, Deputy Commissioner of Trials Judge Rosemarie Maldonado concluded that Pantaleo had been “untruthful” during an interview with internal affairs.
In his address, O’Neill called Monday a “day of reckoning [that] can also be a day of reconciliation.” He added, “In carrying out the court’s verdict in this case, I take no pleasure. I know that many will disagree with this decision, and that is their right. There are absolutely no victors here today. Not the Garner family, not the community at large, and certainly not the courageous men and women of the Police Department who put their own lives on the line every single day in service to the people of this great city.”
Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Today we have finally seen justice done,” adding that Pantaleo’s firing “ended a chapter that has brought our people so much pain and so much fear these last five years.” De Blasio, who is currently running for president, has faced sharp criticism for not calling for Pantaleo’s ouster earlier. At a recent Democratic primary debate, he was hounded by protestors, who shouted, “Fire Pantaleo!”
“We must devote ourselves to this simple goal: No one should have to go through the agony that the city has gone through here,” de Blasio continued. “Let this be the last tragedy.”
Garner’s youngest daughter, Emerald Snipes Garner — who created a viral petition calling for the NYPD to fire Pantaleo — addressed his termination in a statement. “I thank everybody who has been standing with my family for the past 5 years, and everyone who’s been screaming ‘Fire Pantaleo!'” she said. “To Commissioner O’Neill, I thank you for firing Officer Pantaleo. You finally made a decision that should have been made 5 years ago.”
She now plans to call for a federal law prohibiting police use of chokeholds around the country. “I don’t want another Eric Garner,” she said. “I will do everything in my power to stop [there from being] another Eric Garner.”
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