Eric Garner case: NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo fired for 'reckless' actions

The New York Police Department on Monday announced the dismissal of Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

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New York Police Commissioner James O'Neill announced the decision Monday morning at a news conference.

"I served for nearly 34 years as a New York City cop before becoming a police commissioner," O'Neill said. "I can tell you that had I been in Officer Pantaleo's position, I might have made some of the same mistakes."

Police suspended Officer Daniel Pantaleo earlier this month after a judge recommended he be fired for his role in Garner's death. The judge determined Pantaleo used a banned chokehold to subdue Garner, 43, who had been suspected of selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island, NPR reported. The judge did not find Pantaleo guilty of intentionally restricting Garner's breathing, according to NPR.

"Trials Commissioner (Rosemarie) Maldonado ruled that officer Pantaleo’s use of a prohibited chokehold was reckless and constituted a gross deviation from the standard of conduct established for a New York City police officer," O'Neill said Monday. "I agree with the deputy commissioner of trial's legal findings and recommendations and it is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer serve as a New York City police officer."

The president of New York City's largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association, accused O'Neill of choosing "politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead," in a statement released Monday.

"He has chosen to cringe in fear of the anti-police extremists, rather than standing up for New Yorkers who want a functioning police department, with cops who are empowered to protect them and their families," Lynch said.

Garner's family welcomed news of Pantaleo's dismissal at a news conference Monday afternoon but questioned how long the decision took and vowed to continue working toward police reforms.

"I don't want another Eric Garner. I will do everything in my power to never see another Eric Garner," Garner's daughter, Emerald Garner, told reporters. "I don't even want to see another video of a person being choked out. Because it wasn't supposed to happen to him. It's not supposed to happen. I should not be here standing with my brother, fatherless. I should be standing here with my father."

U.S. Attorney General William Barr last month declined to pursue a federal indictment against Pantaleo on civil rights charges, The New York Times reported.

Videos of the July 17, 2014, encounter taken by bystanders showed Garner, who was unarmed and black, telling officers, "I can't breathe" nearly a dozen times before he became unconscious. The medical examiner's office determined a chokehold contributed to Garner's death, the Associated Press reported.

Videos of the incident spurred protests nationwide, turning "I can't breathe" into a rallying cry against police brutality and violence.

Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and put on desk duty after the incident but continued to draw a hefty salary since Garner’s death, with his pay peaking at more than $120,000 in 2017, according to city payroll records.

A grand jury in Staten Island declined to indict Pantaleo on state charges in December 2014.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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