Five years after Officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner, the New York Police Department (NYPD) has fired him.
In 2014, Pantaleo was part of a group that attempted to arrest Garner, who they suspected of selling individual untaxed cigarettes. In the ensuing confrontation, which was captured on video, Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold. Garner told the officers repeatedly that he was unable to breathe. They ignored his pleas, and he died. Garner has since become a symbol of the movement against police brutality.
An internal disciplinary hearing followed, and The New York Times obtained and released its results yesterday. In the report, Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado writes that while she does not believe that Pantaleo intended to choke Garner, the autopsy results, the video, and Pantaleo's own interviews led her to conclude that he used the prohibited move. Maldonado also called Pantaleo "untruthful" about his behavior. "I found [Pantaleo] to be disingenuous when he viewed the video and denied using a chokehold," she wrote.
Maldonado found Pantaleo guilty of recklessly causing physical injury and not guilty of strangulation with intent to impede breathing. She recommended Pantaleo's dismissal, and NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill announced today that Pantaleo is being fired.
"While this is some measure of long-overdue relief, we have a long way to go to achieve true police accountability," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New York, said in a statement. "The NYPD must take further steps to rebuild trust between officers and the communities they serve, put an end to police brutality against communities of color, and ensure what happened to Eric Garner will never happen again."
Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, responded to the decision by accusing O'Neill of choosing "politics and his own self-interest" over the interests of NYPD officers. He continued: "Now it is time for every police officer in this city to make their own choice. We are urging all New York City police officers to proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed 'reckless' just for doing their job."
Garner's daughter, Emerald Garner, thanked O'Neill for "doing the right thing":
"Eric Garner was killed five years ago. It took five years for the officer to be fired. I don't want another Eric Garner," says one of his daughters, Emerald Garner, after the firing of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. pic.twitter.com/7k5VDKolt8
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) August 19, 2019