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)

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

25-year-old Rachelle Okrusko has been missing since Jan. 12, 2021. Photo provided by Wetaskiwin RCMP.
Wetaskiwin RCMP looking for missing woman

25-year-old Rachelle Okrusko has been missing since Jan. 12, 2021.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City of Wetaskiwin’s active COVID-19 cases drop below 100

Active COVID-19 cases in the City of Wetaskiwin are dropping.

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw
Alberta eases some COVID-19 restrictions

Salons, barbershops and other personal and wellness services will be open by appointment only

Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn. (Facebook)
Kenney kicks Pat Rehn out of UCP caucus after municipal complaints

Rehn had been criticized by municipal leaders in his constituency

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

(Via the Canadian Press)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

‘They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat’

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy,’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID clarity: Feds say 42-day gap for 2-dose vaccines OK as provinces race to immunity

‘Realities on the ground’ means that provinces, territories will have difficult choices to make

Most Read