Eric Garner Rally

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NYPD To Immediately Launch Disciplinary Proceedings In Garner Case

July 19, 2018 - 4:11 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- The NYPD says it will immediately begin disciplinary proceedings against two officers involved in the 2014 police custody death of Eric Garner.

For four years, the NYPD had been delaying its internal disciplinary procedures against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was seen in a cell phone video applying an apparent chokehold on Garner, and against Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, the supervisor at the scene, at the request of the Department of Justice, which began a civil rights investigation in the Garner case after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the NYPD honored the federal prosecutors' request due to the "difference between departmental charges and criminal charges."

"Departmental charges, the highest penalty the department can bring is termination, in any case, we all know the difference between that and criminal charges which can result in years in prison," de Blasio said.

The mayor underlines after four years the Justice Department still has not decided whether to file federal civil rights charges.

"I don't how on earth that's possible since they've obviously done all the investigation they ever needed to do. So this is a new reality we're gonna have to take into account going forward," de Blasio said.

With the Justice Department now telling the NYPD to go forward with the disciplinary proceedings the mayor declared, "I think every New Yorker is relieved that we can finally get some closure here.

"This was a horrible tragedy that everyone felt in this city and no one felt it more than the Garner family, and this is not speedy justice," de Blasio said. "Again you want a bi-partisan statement, we had two presidential administrations that were polar opposites but neither one of them could manage to make a decision."

The mayor declared the Department of Justice remains the wild card in this case. 

"They are reserving their right to act and they do not believe that whatever the NYPD does has any bearing at this point," the mayor added. "This has not been a good and fair situation, I think to finally have action on the one piece we can control will bring a small measure of closure here."

But Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said, "We hope that the NYPD's eagerness to start the disciplinary process does not mean the outcome has already been decided, without even the pretense of due process."

Lynch added that he's confident Pantaleo will be vindicated.

As WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported, Garner, 43, was stopped on July 17, 2014 outside a Staten Island convenience store because police officers believed he was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker shows Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.

Officer Pantaleo then placed his arm around Garner's neck to take him down. Garner, who had asthma, is heard repeating the phrase "I can't breathe" 11 times before losing consciousness. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

A Staten Island grand jury declined grand jury declined to file charges against Pantaleo in December 2014, but in 2016 a federal grand jury began hearing evidence regarding whether Garner's civil rights were violated, a source told CBS News at the time.

A letter dated Monday from an NYPD lawyer informed the Department of Justice that it would no longer wait for federal authorities to decide whether to charge Pantaleo in the Garner case. The letter said that after four years since Garner's death, the federal probe “seems to have no end in sight” and the department could no longer justifying delaying its own administrative case.

Since “a definite date by which time a final decision by the U.S. DOJ will be rendered in this matter cannot be predicted,” the NYPD will now go ahead with the disciplinary probe anyway, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters Lawrence Byrne wrote in the letter to Justice Department lawyer Paige Fitzgerald.

At the time, Byrne wrote that NYPD will go ahead with the disciplinary proceedings on or promptly after Sept. 1 and would hold off if the DOJ announced its intention to file criminal charges on or before Aug. 31.