After over five years, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill fired Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who killed Eric Garner by using an illegal chokehold during an arrest for an alleged nonviolent crime in Staten Island. His termination is effective immediately.
O’Neill said Pantaleo “consciously disregarded” the prohibited chokehold but persisted regardless. However, O’Neill admitted, “The unintended consequence of Mr. Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own.” The commissioner said he was “confident” he had made the right decision, even though he called it a “difficult” one. O’Neill, a former uniformed officer, said had he been in Pantaleo’s position, he may have made “similar mistakes” but would have wished he had “released” his grip.
“An officer’s choices … matter,” O’Neill said before saying that Garner should not have resisted arrest.
O’Neill’s decision came more than two months after the conclusion of an NYPD administrative trial to decide the professional fate of Pantaleo, who has remained gainfully employed by the department since a video showed him using a banned chokehold on Garner, who was supposedly suspected of the nonviolent crime of selling loose and untaxed cigarettes in public. The status of Pantaleo’s NYPD pension was unclear after O’Neill’s announcement.
When asked if he thought justice was delivered, O’Neill said the process was “fair and impartial” while describing it as a “tragedy for the Garner family.”
Judge Rosemarie Maldonado recommended earlier this month that O’Neill should fire Pantaleo. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Maldonado said Pantaleo’s version of Garner’s death was “untruthful” and “disingenuous” during the disgraced cop’s accounts to investigators. She also said the other officers who testified were “unhelpful or unreliable.”
O’Neill said he “agreed with the content” of Maldonado’s recommendation.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed on July 31 that Garner’s family would have justice within “30 days.” At that point, of course, justice for Garner and his family had already been inexplicably deferred for more than five years as New York City officials exchanged blame while Pantaleo continued earning his six-figure salary behind the safety of desk duty.
The Staten Island grand jury and the Department of Justice failed to bring any criminal charges against Pantaleo.
Garner was approached by undercover NYPD officers on July 17, 2014, for the alleged offense of selling untaxed loose cigarettes. When officers failed at handcuffing him for the nonviolent misdemeanor, Pantaleo was caught on video with his arms wrapped tightly around Garner’s neck from behind. The chokehold ultimately killed Garner. The entire deadly episode was captured on cellphone video and filmed by a bystander. Garner’s final words — “I can’t breathe” — became a rallying call for social justice advocates who have maintained that his death was a murder.
See the reactions from Twitter below:
The fact that it took 5 years, international activism, and multiple investigations to get Daniel Pantaleo fired for killing Eric Garner ON VIDEO with a banned chokehold says everything we need to know about the value of Black life in America.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) August 19, 2019
They're still blaming Eric Garner for his own murder.— Bree Newsome Bass (@BreeNewsome) August 19, 2019
They're saying that from the moment a police officer approaches you, you have no rights or bodily autonomy & must submit to any order even if it's unlawful.
Eric Garner told them to stop harassing him & they killed him. https://t.co/BAxqQEmgCB
This doesn't bring #EricGarner back. But it does show the power of activism. Much of which was led by his daughter, #EricaGarner, who died from doing this work. Her work was not in vain.https://t.co/IAnH63Y0ZR— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) August 19, 2019
I’d like to live in a country where police officers knew if they wrongfully killed a citizen they would face jail time, not the same punishment someone would face for merely being bad at their job.— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) August 19, 2019
Eric Garner deserved better than this.
It took five years just to fire NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who used a banned chokehold to kill Eric Garner.— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) August 19, 2019
Five years just to fire him from his job.
No prosecution of Pantaleo.
And then to add insult to injury, the police commissioner blames Eric Garner for his own death. https://t.co/Ud1I84VZ0E
Justice is slow. This was the right thing to do five years ago, when Daniel Pantaleo murdered Eric Garner. Accountability might change the culture faster, though, if the NYPD Commissioner hadn’t said, “If I were still a cop, I would probably be mad at me.” https://t.co/T7VJkgQeps— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) August 19, 2019
Pat Lynch is more furious about a white cop who murdered a man being fired than he is about a man being murdered.— Sa-weet Potato-rah Smith🍠🦃 (@SarahSmith4WA) August 19, 2019
Eric Garner is dead because a man used an illegal maneuver and ignored cries of distress until he died. That man deserves jail time. Firing seems obvious. And late. https://t.co/dFV1ni6Wig
This decision does not bring Eric Garner back to his family and accountability across our justice system should not take five years. We need reform now. https://t.co/XOAZ3rxomK— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 19, 2019
After five years, the officer who killed #EricGarner will finally be fired.— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) August 19, 2019
Daniel Pantaleo’s name and this incident should be in a national database so that every police department knows his history and will not hire him.
He should now be held accountable under the law. https://t.co/fqvLgf9hXw
The officer who killed Eric Garner has been fired. That is not enough.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 19, 2019
We have got to change how police departments operate, finally end police brutality and stop the killing of unarmed black and brown Americans.
Here are some of the ways I plan to do that as president: 1/
Daniel Pantaleo has been fired for killing Eric Garner... but he could still be hired somewhere else. His career as a police officer may not be over. He probably already has job interviews lined up. This is why we need a database of decertified police officers.— Clay 'Didn't Hold His Vote Hostage' Cane (@claycane) August 19, 2019