Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner using an illegal chokehold, has been suspended from the force and may soon have to hand in his gun and badge for good.
The NYPD suspended Pantaleo Friday afternoon, just hours after Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado determined that he should be fired. The decision and subsequent suspension, which is standard practice when NYPD oversight recommends termination, come after five years of Pantaleo avoiding prosecution of any kind in regards to Garner's July 2014 death. Just last month, the U.S. Department of Justice decided to throw out the case on the grounds that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to bring federal civil rights charges against the cop, sparking 11 days of protests.
Pantaleo has been on desk duty all this time.
“Today’s decision confirms what the Civilian Complaint Review Board always has maintained: Officer Daniel Pantaleo committed misconduct on July 17, 2014, and his actions caused the death of Eric Garner,” Civilian Complaint Review Board Chair Fred Davie said in a statement shortly after the decision. “The evidence the CCRB’s prosecutors brought forth at trial was more than sufficient to prove that Pantaleo is unfit to serve.”
Maldonado’s recommendation will be sent to the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, the agency that prosecuted the case, and Pantaleo’s defense lawyer, Stuart London. London will then have about two weeks to prepare a response to the verdict before Pantaleo’s fate is finally determined by NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill. The deadline for the decision is Aug. 31.
Pantaleo approached 43-year-old Garner that afternoon on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes near a Staten Island bodega. When Garner pulled his hand away as he was being arrested, Pantaleo used a chokehold maneuver outlawed by the police department. His death is pivotal to the rise of Black Lives Matter and his dying words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry against police brutality in communities of color
And Garner’s death has been in the news regularly ever since the incident.
Just earlier this week, the police killing became a hot topic during the Democratic debates in Detroit. Chants of “Fire Pantaleo” broke out during Sen. Cory Booker’s opening statement. Garner’s death came up once more as candidates questioned both former Vice President Joe Biden and New York City mayor and presidential hopeful Bill de Blasio on how they’ve handled the case in the past.
De Blasio, in particular, has faced backlash over his refusal to make his own recommendation regarding Pantaleo’s future. After the DOJ dropped the case, advocates cried for de Blasio to weigh in on the NYPD’s final verdict. Instead, he decided to meet with the Garner family at Gracie Mansion behind closed doors. They were not impressed with what the Mayor had to say.
“It is outrageous that I have had to be fighting for five years to get the Mayor to do his job to make sure that there is accountability when the NYPD murders our children,” Carr told protesters immediately after the meeting last month. “The mayor has been dragging his heels and obstructing accountability at every turn for the past five years.”
During a press conference at New York City Hall Friday afternoon, De Blasio seemed pleased with the decision, even if it took five years to get there.
“It’s bad enough that an innocent man died. We all saw it, we all felt it. […] The notion that five years passed without a trial, and the place that had been the ultimate dispenser of justice failed to act in any way shape or form is unfathomable,” the mayor said. “This is the kind of thing that needed to happen a long time ago. An actual justice process, and now it has happened.”
In a press conference with Rev. Al Sharpton Friday afternoon, Eric Garner’s daughter Emerald Garner also reacted to Maldonado’s decision.
“Five years is too long,” Garner said. “Commissioner O’Neill: Fire Pantaleo. That’s all we’re asking.”
Cover: New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house Monday, May 13, 2019, in Staten Island, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)