Five Years After Eric Garner’s Death, NYPD Fires Cop Who Used Banned Chokehold

The NYPD officer an administrative judge said was “untruthful” and “self-serving” during the investigation of Eric Garner’s July 17, 2014 death has been fired. Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced Monday afternoon that Daniel Pantaleo was out of a job.

“It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City Police officer,” O’Neill said on Monday. O’Neill repeatedly called the decision a “difficult” one and said that the decision was made in the last couple of days.

Pantaleo, who had been on desk duty since Garner’s death, was suspended on Aug. 2. Judge Rosemarie Maldonado determined Pantaleo used a banned chokehold on Garner and recommended that Pantaleo be fired.

Pantaleo’s attorney had argued that his client used the “seat belt” technique, not a banned chokehold. Back in 2014, Pantaleo said “It is never my intention to harm anyone, and I feel bad about the death of Mr. Garner.”

Despite the high-profile nature of the case and disturbing video evidence of what occurred, the Department of Justice previously announced that it would not bring charges against Pantaleo, even though Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold that resulted in a deadly asthma attack. As USA Today reported, a Staten Island jury previously arrived at the same decision.

The chokehold, a medical examiner who performed the Garner autopsy testified in May, “would have compromised the neck and would have compromised the airway, making it difficult for [Garner] to breathe.”

“I can’t breathe,” Garner could be heard saying repeatedly in his dying moments.  Garner was suspected of illegally selling cigarettes that day. “I can’t breathe” went on to become a rallying cry for civil rights activists protesting police brutality against people of color. Garner was 43. After his death, NYC paid out $5.9 million in a settlement with Garner’s family.

[Image via ABC News screengrab]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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