New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo has been fired, five years after he was filmed putting his arms around Eric Garner’s neck while trying to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. Garner, who was asthmatic, said he couldn’t breathe 11 times as officers dropped him to the ground. He was taken to a nearby hospital and began having a heart attack. He died an hour later.
In July the Department of Justice declined to file federal civil rights charges against Pantaleo for his role in Garner’s death. In August 2014, a Grand Jury declined to indict Pantaleo, but four Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics who worked on Garner were suspended for their role in his death. They were later reinstated. Nearly a year after Garner’s death, New York City settled a civil lawsuit brought by his family for $5.9 million.
Just last week, an administrative judge ruled in a 46-page opinion obtained by The New York Times found that Pantaleo was “untruthful” when he claimed he did not use a chokehold on Garner. Judge Rosemarie Maldonado said Pantaleo’s claimed that he did not use the prohibited maneuver was “implausible and self-serving.”
Pantaleo had been asked in 2014 to describe a chokehold. He did and was then showed footage from his encounter with Garner. The video showed him performing the maneuver he described, yet he answered that he “did not” use a chokehold.
“Here, [Pantaleo’s] use of a chokehold fell so far short of objective reasonableness that this tribunal found it to be reckless — a gross deviation from the standard of conduct established for a New York City police officer,” Maldonado wrote, according to CNN. “Moreover, [Pantaleo’s] glaring dereliction of responsibility precipitated a tragic outcome.”
Maldonado recommended Pantaleo be fired. On August 2, Pantaleo was suspended. On Monday he was fired.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill announced Pantaleo’s fate at a press conference.
“It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York police officer,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill also said that it was not an “easy decision” to fire Pantaleo and that, had he been in the same situation, he “may have made similar mistakes.” He added that the contributions Pantaleo made to his pension would be returned to him and that he would not receive his pension going forward.
Footage from the police’s interactions with Garner show that he repeatedly told them to stop hassling him and that he wasn’t selling loose cigarettes that day. He had done so in the past and had a criminal history. Police attempted to arrest him, but he put his hands up and continued to deny criminal wrongdoing. Within seconds, Pantaleo was on Garner’s back with his arms around his neck, even though Garner was not acting violent in any way. He had just put his hands up when officers moved to push him to the ground.
Garner’s death came at a time when police around the country were accused of using excessive force against unarmed African-Americans. Many of the accusations, including those against Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, turned out to be discredited, but the claims against the police in the case of Eric Garner were backed up by video evidence.