The New York police Department on Monday fired an officer involved in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, the city’s police commissioner announced at a press conference.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said it was clear that Officer Daniel Pantaleo “can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”
The decision comes about two weeks after an administrative judge recommended Pantaleo be fired for placing Garner in a prohibited chokehold that led to Garner’s death.
Video of the 2014 incident ignited a national debate over police brutality and race. Garner is heard on the video repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe” before losing consciousness. The phrase became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter activists and those pushing for police reform.
Activists and politicians for years have called for Pantaleo, who is white, to be fired, though officials have said they could not make that decision until criminal proceedings were complete.
A state grand jury in 2014 declined to indict Pantaleo, while the Justice Department kept a civil rights investigation open for nearly five years until declining last month to bring charges.
After an administrative trial, Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado earlier this month found Pantaleo guilty of using a chokehold on Garner, who was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. Maldonado recommended that Pantaleo be terminated, though the decision was ultimately up to O’Neill, the police commissioner.
Pantaleo’s lawyers argued that he used another, approved maneuver to subdue Garner – not a chokehold.
“None of us can take back our decisions, especially when they lead to the death of another human being,” said O’Neill, who also noted that he struggled with the decision. O’Neill said Garner should not have resisted arrest and called both Gardner’s death and Pantaleo’s firing tragedies.
O’Neill said Pantaleo was not given advance notice of his firing before the press conference.