Eric Garner was killed five years ago, but without real justice, his story remains in the spotlight. New York Police Department spokesman announced Aug. 2 that they had suspended Daniel Pantaleo, the white officer who killed Garner by using an illegal chokehold to restrain him as he yelled “I can’t breathe.”
The move comes after a departmental judge, Rosemary Maldonado, recommended Pantaleo’s firing, and in the wake of the Aug. 1 2020 Democratic Presidential debate being interrupted by protesters chanting “Fire Pantaleo” at New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.
In July, Attorney General William Barr ordered charges against Pantaleo be dropped. After the news came out, protests erupted, with Garner’s family vowing not to rest until they achieve justice. Garner’s family and supporters have been urging de Blasio to take action to get Pantaleo fired from the NYPD.
During the debate, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Julián Castro condemned de Blasio for his inaction. De Blasio pointed out that he does not legally have the authority to fire an officer, but critics said he can still exert his influence over his administration’s police department. De Blasio suspended the disciplinary proceedings for Pantaleo until after the DOJ investigation.
“If I was the mayor I’d fire him, but as President I would make sure that we had a full investigation, that the report would be made public and if I wasn’t satisfied, we would have a consent decree,” Gillibrand said during the debate, arguing de Blasio’s response was not enough.
Suspension is protocol after a recommendation for termination, but the Police Commissioner, James O’Neil, is the only person with the direct authority to fire Pantaleo. Pantaleo has been working on the NYPD on desk duty since the incident.
“Five years is too long,” Garner’s daughter, Emerald Snipes-Garner said in a statement. “Commissioner O’Neill, do your job. We’ve been waiting for five years, and we don’t want to wait no more.”
The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) that prosecuted Pantaleo and Pantaleo’s attorneys will have two weeks to respond to the recommendation before O’Neil makes the final decision.
The CCRB released a statement following the recommendation, saying, “The evidence the CCRB’s prosecutors brought forth at trial was more than sufficient to prove that Pantaleo is unfit to serve. Commissioner O’Neill must uphold this verdict and dismiss Pantaleo from the Department, as was recommended by both the CCRB and the Deputy Commissioner of Trials.”
O’Neill has been tight-lipped on what decision he may be leaning toward, but a senior law enforcement official told CNN he is expected to follow the recommendation.
De Blasio called the recommendation a step toward justice, but Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr said though it offered the family some relief, the fight must still continue.
“It’s past time for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD to end their obstruction, stop spreading misleading talking points and finally take action for my son,” Carr said in a statement. “He should be fired without a pension, benefits or a ‘good guy’ letter.”