FILE - In this May 13, 2019, file photo New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house Monday, May 13, 2019, in Staten Island, N.Y. New York City’s police commissioner has scheduled a midday news conference as the city waits for his decision on whether to fire Pantaleo, a police officer involved in the 2014 death of an unarmed black man. Police commissioner James O’Neill said he would make an announcement at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, on an undisclosed topic. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)

FILE - In this May 13, 2019, file photo New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house Monday, May 13, 2019, in Staten Island, N.Y. New York City’s police commissioner has scheduled a midday news conference as the city waits for his decision on whether to fire Pantaleo, a police officer involved in the 2014 death of an unarmed black man. Police commissioner James O’Neill said he would make an announcement at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, on an undisclosed topic. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File)

NYPD fires officer for 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner

Daniel Pantaleo’s chokehold raised questions about race and use of force by police

After five years of investigations and protests, the New York City Police Department on Monday fired an officer involved in the 2014 chokehold death of the black man whose dying cries of “I can’t breathe” fueled a national debate over race and police use of force.

Police Commissioner James O’Neill’s said he fired Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, based on a recent recommendation of a department disciplinary judge. He said it was clear Pantaleo “can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”

“None of us can take back our decisions,” O’Neill said, “especially when they lead to the death of another human being.”

Asked whether Mayor Bill de Blasio forced his hand, O’Neill said the dismissal was his choice. “This is the decision that the police commissioner makes,” he said, calling Eric Garner’s death an “irreversible tragedy” that “must have a consequence.”

The president of the police union, Patrick Lynch, accused O’Neill of choosing “politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead.”

Lynch urged police officers to “proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed ‘reckless’ just for doing their job.”

“Now it is time for every police officer in this city to make their own choice,” he said in a statement. “We will uphold our oath, but we cannot and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety.”

Video of the confrontation led to years of protests and calls by black activists and liberal politicians for Pantaleo to lose his job. City officials had long insisted that they could not take action until criminal investigations were complete.

A state grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in 2014. Federal authorities, however, kept a civil rights investigation open for five years before announcing last month they would not bring charges.

Pantaleo’s lawyer has insisted the officer used a reasonable amount of force and did not mean to hurt Garner.

O’Neill said Pantaleo initially placed Garner in a chokehold as the two men stumbled backward into a glass window. That, he said, was understandable, given the struggle.

But after the officers got Garner on the ground, Pantaleo did not relax his grip but “kept his hands clasped and maintained the chokehold.” That, he said, was the mistake that cost him his job.

“That exigent circumstance no longer existed when they moved to the ground,” O’Neill said.

Garner’s death came at a time of a growing public outcry over police killings of unarmed black men that sparked the national Black Lives Matter movement.

Just weeks later, protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown. And later in 2014, a man angry about the Garner and Brown cases shot two New York City police officers to death in their cruiser in retribution.

De Blasio never said whether he believed Pantaleo should lose his job but promised “justice” to the slain man’s family.

At a recent administrative trial at police headquarters, Pantaleo’s lawyers argued he used an approved “seat belt” technique to subdue Garner, who refused to be handcuffed after officers accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes.

In a bystander’s video, it appeared that Pantaleo initially tried to use two approved restraint tactics on Garner, who was much larger at 6-foot-2 (188 centimetres) and about 400 pounds (180 kilograms), but ended up wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck for about seven seconds as they struggled against a glass storefront window and fell to the sidewalk.

The footage showed Garner, who was 43 at the time, crying out, “I can’t breathe,” at least 11 times before he fell unconscious. The medical examiner’s office said a chokehold contributed to Garner’s death.

Questions about the handling of the case have dogged de Blasio during his longshot run for president, with some protesters at the recent debate in Detroit chanting, “Fire Pantaleo.”

ALSO READ: Oppenheimer Park residents told to leave, clear out tents by Aug. 21

Tom Hays And Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vaccinations are set to resume in the small community of Tatchet, according to Lake Babine Nation’s Deputy Chief. (Black Press Media file photo)
Lake Babine Nation vaccine rollout resumes after a short pause

A COVID positive test within the care team had put the vaccinations on hold

Cheslatta Chief Corrina Leween received one of the COVID-19 vaccines on the Southside, on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
COVID-19 vaccination begins in Burns Lake

Senior population, health care workers and First Nations among the first to get the vaccine

Sasquatch sighting. (Omineca Ski Club photo/Lakes District News)
Sasquatch on the loose at Omineca Ski Club

Head out to the trails to see if you can spot it; a tongue-in-cheek response from the club President

Two books in particular became quite popular at the start of the pandemic — Soap and Water Common Sense, The definitive guide to viruses’ bacteria, parasites, and disease and The Great Influenza, The story of the deadliest pandemic in history. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Burns Lake Public Library lent 20,916 books in 2020

Gained 67 new patrons throughout the year

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read