NYPD Commissioner Fires Officer Daniel Pantaleo For Chokehold Death Of Eric Garner

Marta Zielinska
August 19, 2019 - 1:37 pm
Fire Daniel Pantaleo Trial

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill has decided to fire Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his involvement in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner.

The announcement comes weeks after the judge who presided over Pantaleo's departmental trial recommended that the officer be terminated from the force.

“The unintended consequence of Mr. Garner's death must have a consequence of its own," O'Neill said Monday. "It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer."

The commissioner said while he is confident in his decision, it was not an easy one to make. He said he takes no pleasure in carrying out the court's verdict.

"There are absolutely no victors here today – not the Garner family, not the community at large and certainly not the courageous men and women of the Police Department," O'Neill said. “We must move forward together as one city, determined to secure safety for all – safety for all New Yorkers and safety for every police officer working daily to protect all of us.”

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Eric Garner's daughter, Emerald, thanked O'Neill for firing Pantaleo, but says her work continues.

"It took five years for the officer to be fired, I don't want another Eric Garner. I will do everything in my power to never see another Eric Garner. I don't even want to see another video of a person being choked out," she said, adding that she wants to see an "Eric Garner Law'' passed that would make police chokeholds illegal.

She also wants action to be taken against the other officers present during her father's arrest.

Following O'Neill's decision, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared, "We have finally seen justice done."

“For the Garner family that has gone through so much agony for so long, and had waited this long just to have one trial finally conclude with a decision, I hope today brings some small measure of closure. Today will not bring Eric Garner back, but I hope it brings some small measure of closure and peace to the Garner family," the mayor added.

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch blasted the decision and accused O'Neill of choosing "politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead.''

“With this decision, Commissioner O’Neill has opened the door for politicians to dictate the outcome of every single NYPD disciplinary proceeding, without any regard for the facts of the case or police officers’ due process rights," Lynch said. "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. We will uphold our oath, but we cannot and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety.”

He is calling on the state's governor to have de Blasio removed from office for "malfeasance and nonfeasance."

"He abandoned his post. He refused to do his job and has joined the anti-police rhetoric that we already known got two police officers killed," Lynch said, referring to the deaths of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos who were gunned down as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn five years ago. “(The rhetoric) has caused the street to disrespect our uniforms and the women and men wearing it, to dump buckets of water over their heads, to throw bricks and concrete from the roof and then to take out their weapons and fire on police. This mayor needs to be removed. The police commissioner needs to know he’s lost his police department.”

In her 46-page opinion, which was obtained by the New York Times, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado found Pantaleo was "untruthful" when he told investigators he did not use a prohibited chokehold on Garner. Maldonado found his denial to Internal Affairs was "implausible and self-serving." 

Maldonado also concluded Pantaleo did not intend to strangle Garner, but he was reckless in use of the chokehold.

She recommended that Pantaleo be fired.

Five years ago on Staten Island, police tried to arrest Garner for selling untaxed, loose cigarettes. He resisted and video showed Pantaleo wrapping his arm around Garner's neck.

Garner uttered, "I can't breathe," 11 times before going into cardiac arrest.

O'Neill said during the struggle with Garner, Pantaleo had an opportunity to readjust his grip from an illegal chokehold, but "did not make use of that opportunity."

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.

“No one believes that Officer Pantaleo got out of bed on July 17, 2014, thinking he would make choices and take actions during an otherwise routine arrest that would lead to another person’s death. But an officer’s choice and actions, even made under extreme pressure, matter," O'Neill said. “It’s unlikely that Mr. Garner thought he was in such poor health that a brief struggle with the police would cause his death. He should have decided against resisting arrest, but a man with a family lost his life and that is an irreversible tragedy.”

“A hardworking police officer with a family, a man who took this job to do good, to make a difference in his home community has now lost his chosen career and that is a different kind of tragedy," the commissioner added.

In a statement, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson commended O’Neill for his decision to fire Pantaleo, noting that he no longer had a place in the NYPD.

“The family of Eric Garner has been waiting five long years for justice. It is my hope that they get some peace and closure after today. The reality is that Eric Garner would still be alive were it not for Mr. Pantaleo’s actions, and while the system has failed Eric Garner’s family repeatedly for the past 5 years, at least the right thing was done today,” said Johnson.

Pantaleo had been on desk duty since Garner's death.

His firing is effective immediately and Pantaleo has been stripped of his pension.

Pantaleo's lawyer says they will file an appeal. 

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