New York City’s police commissioner has fired a police officer involved in thePolice Commissioner James O’Neill made the announcement Monday afternoon.
O’Neill had been deliberating whether to accept a disciplinary judge’s recommendation that Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired for using a banned chokehold on Eric Garner. Garner’s dying words of “I can’t breathe” became a flash point in a national debate over race and police use of force.
Pantaleo’s lawyer has said the officer didn’t mean to hurt Garner and insisted he did not use the banned chokehold. But in a disciplinary recommendation obtained by the New York Times, NYPD administrative judge Rosmarie Maldonado said video of the fatal encounter and autopsy results provided “overwhelming” evidence that Pantaleo used the banned maneuver.
According to the Times, Maldonado wrote that Pantaleo’s “use of a chokehold fell so far short of objective reasonableness that this tribunal found it to be reckless — a gross deviation from the standard of conduct established for a New York City police officer.”
O’Neill said he agreed with Maldonado’s recommendation to fire Pantaleo. He said it was clear that 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.”
A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo. Federal authorities announced last month they would not bring civil rights charges.
New York City’s mayor had declined to say whether he believed Pantaleo should lose his job but had been promising “justice” to the slain man’s family.
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 unarmed 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.
At a recent administrative trial at New York Police Department 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 and about 400 pounds, 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 Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio during his run for president, with some protesters at the recent debate in Detroit chanting,