NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill announced Monday that officer Daniel Pantaleo would be dismissed five years after the incident that led to Garner’s death.
Garner, who was black, died after being placed in the banned chokehold by Pantaleo, who is white, outside a Staten Island convenience store. Garner repeatedly shouted “I can’t breathe,” which later became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Garner’s children, Emerald Snipes Garner and Eric Garner Jr., praised the decision to fire Pantaleo but said more needs to be done to hold other officers accountable in the case and improve policing practices.
“I should not be here standing with my brother, fatherless,” Snipes Garner said. She thanked O’Neill for “doing the right thing” but said Pantaleo should have been fired five years ago.
Snipes Garner said she wants congressional hearings and will continue to push to have a criminal case reopened. She also said she’s urging lawmakers to make it a crime for any officer to use a chokehold.
Pantaleo was never charged, but Snipes Garner said she believes some officers lied to a state grand jury and provided conflicting accounts about what happened the day her father died.
Garner, 43, was accused of illegally selling single cigarettes outside the convenience store when officers attempted to arrest him in a struggle captured on video. Garner gasped repeatedly that he could not breathe after Pantaleo and other officers knocked him to the ground.
Garner’s death was rule a homicide and an autopsy report said the chokehold was in part what caused his death.
O’Neill said Pantaleo was correct when he initially used the chokehold, but that when Garner was under control he should have switched to a “less lethal” alternative.
However, he also said that “had I been in Officer Pantaleo’s situation, I may have made similar mistakes.”
“But none of us can take back our decisions, particularly when they result in the death of another human being.”
Pantaleo will not receive a pension as a result of the decision, though he will be repaid what he put into the fund. Stuart London, the ex-officer’s lawyer, said he expects to appeal the decision and go to court for Pantaleo’s job.
Pantaleo had been on desk duty when a departmental trial judge recommended earlier this month that the 13-year department veteran be fired.
The decision to fire Pantaleo also drew the ire of the police union. Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch called Pantaleo an “exemplary” officer and said police “leadership has abandoned ship and left our police officers on the street alone, without backing.”
“It’s absolutely essential that the world know that the New York City Police Department is rudderless and frozen,” he said.
Lynch also called for a no-confidence vote on the commissioner and mayor. Mayor Bill de Blasio had praised O’Neill’s decision, saying “justice has been done.”
“Our officers are here to protect us, to keep us safe, and yet we watch a man die, (and) so many people ask ‘What if that was my brother right there in that situation, what if it was my son, what if that was my father, what if that was me?” de Blasio said.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, put it plainly: “Pantaleo, you may have lost your job, but I lost a son.”
Contributing: John Bacon and the Associated Press