Eric Garner Daniel Pantaleo

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NYPD Judge Recommends Officer In Eric Garner Case Be Terminated

August 02, 2019 - 8:00 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — An NYPD administrative judge has recommended Officer Daniel Pantaleo be terminated following his involvement in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.

Following the judge's recommendation, the NYPD immediately suspended Pantaleo, who has been on desk duty since Garner's death, but the final decision on whether or not he will remain on the force will be determined by Police Commissioner James O'Neill this month.

“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our City’s history," Deputy Commissioner Public Information Phillip Walzak stated. "Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made. In order to protect the integrity of the trial proceedings and conclusion, the NYPD will not comment further until the Police Commissioner makes the final determination.”

At a news conference at City Hall, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Garner family has had "no sense of closure, no sense of justice" for the past five years.

"Until today the Garner family has been failed by this entire process. And think about what they have gone through," de Blasio said. "They waited, and they waited, and they waited, and nothing happened. And as all this stretched on, it reinforced the suspicion—one felt by millions—that justice doesn’t exist for people who look like Eric Garner. Today we finally saw a step towards justice and accountability. We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial. And I hope that this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace."

When asked if Pantaleo should be fired, de Blasio said, “I respect this process. And I want everyone to understand this. If you believe there’s a fair and impartial process then letting it reach its conclusion beyond reproach, beyond question is necessary. And I am talking as the steward of this city. We need closure as a city.”

The mayor's Blue Room remarks were interrupted by protesters chanting "fire Pantaleo." They were quickly escorted away by police.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer said while the judge's recommendation is "welcome news," it comes "five years too late." 

"Now this guidance should be followed and Officer Pantaleo should be fired," Stringer said. "This long overdue and much-needed judgement is an important step in the fight for basic police accountability. I hope and pray that at long last this brings some measure of relief to the Garner family."

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City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the decision is long overdue.

"It should not have taken five years to determine what the public clearly understood in five minutes: Officer Pantaleo used an illegal chokehold on Eric Garner, which ultimately led to his death," Johnson said. “Now Police Commissioner O’Neill must act. Pantaleo must be fired immediately. Nothing will bring back Mr. Garner, but I hope this decision gives the Garner family some peace.”

PBA President Patrick Lynch called the judge's guidance "pure political insanity." He said the "only hope for justice now lies" with the police commissioner.

"It's a horrible decision that came out today by someone that doesn’t understand the law but unfortunately understands politics," Lynch said.

Lynch called Garner's death a “terrible circumstance” for his family and police officers, but he strongly defended Pantaelo while speaking to reporters, saying the officer had seconds to react and did what he'd been trained to do. He said officers will now have to worry about protecting themselves before they can protect the public.

Lynch also slammed de Blasio, calling him a liar who “brought the police department to the gutter.”

“You had criminal advocates get into the head of the mayor of the city,” Lynch said. He encouraged O'Neill to “save the New York City Police Department” and not fire Pantaelo.

“Don’t listen to the mobs, don’t listen to the editorials,” Lynch said.

Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart London, said his client was disappointed and that they're thinking about an appeal.

“He was initially, obviously, not happy with the decision, but he’s a strong individual,” London said.

At a news conference Friday, Garner's sister, Emerald Snipes-Garner, said it's been a long five years for her family.

"We’ve been waiting five years for someone to say that he did something wrong. And they finally made that decision today," she said. "Commissioner O’Neill, fire Pantaelo. That’s all we asking."

The Rev. Al Sharpton joined Snipes-Garner in calling for Pantaleo's termination.

“The commissioner needs to immediately, unequivocally accept the recommendation of the judge and do it right away,” he said. "But make no mistake about it, this is not justice for the Garner family because justice for the Garner family would've been a federal proceeding or a criminal proceeding in the local courts."

Sharpton said it's too soon to say whether “the tide is turning” and that “there's wide resistance to this from many on the other side of this.” He is calling on a federal law banning police chokeholds.

Cell phone video of Garner’s 2014 arrest on a Staten Island street for selling untaxed, loose cigarettes shocked the city and his final words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

A medical examiner ruled Garner's death was a homicide, but a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved.

The Justice Department did not pursue civil rights charges, but the NYPD did hold a departmental trial.

The prosecution claimed Pantaleo used a prohibited chokehold. Pantaleo’s lawyer argued Garner resisted arrest and that his obesity and asthma contributed to his death.

The New York Post reports the police department is bracing for protests.

At this week’s Democratic primary debate, hecklers interrupted and shouted, “Fire Pantaleo.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for president, responded that he believes there will be justice.

Demonstrators are planning to hold a rally outside NYPD headquarters at 6 p.m. Friday to demand O'Neill fire Pantaleo.

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