Recorded on video fatally choking Eric Garner during an arrest, former NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo was fired from the department for use of an unauthorized chokehold. On Thursday, a five-judge panel of the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division upheld the department’s decision to terminate Pantaleo for recklessly causing injury to Garner.
On July 17, 2014, Pantaleo and several other NYPD cops were recorded on cellphone video attempting to arrest Eric Garner for allegedly selling cigarettes on the street. As Garner argued with NYPD Officer Justin Damico, Pantaleo approached Garner from behind and placed Garner in a chokehold even though the maneuver has been banned by the department since 1993.
Before losing consciousness, Garner weakly repeated, “I can’t breathe.”
Three days after Garner’s death, Pantaleo was stripped of his service weapon and placed on desk duty.
According to city medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer, Garner was killed by neck compressions from the chokehold and during physical restraint by the police. She added that asthma, heart disease, and obesity had been contributing factors in the 43-year-old’s death.
In August 2019, Pantaleo was fired from the NYPD after a disciplinary hearing determined that his use of the prolonged chokehold against Garner had been reckless. Pantaleo filed an appeal, but on Thursday, the appellate panel upheld the NYPD’s decision to fire him.
“Substantial evidence supports respondents’ conclusion that petitioner recklessly caused injury to Eric Garner by maintaining a prohibited chokehold for 9 to 10 seconds after exigent circumstances were no longer present, thereby disregarding the risk of injury,” the panel decided.
They added, “Conduct far less serious than petitioner’s has been found by the Court of Appeals to have a destructive impact…on the confidence, which it is so important for the public to have in its police officers.”
On the same day, the New York City Council voted to end qualified immunity for NYPD officers, which protected them from civil lawsuits.
“Today we provide the people of New York City an important tool for accountability when law enforcement violates their rights,” Council Member Stephen Levin stated in a recent press release. “This legislation is simple—it creates a set of civil rights here in New York City, mirroring those conferred by the 4th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, so that people in New York City can hold officers accountable if those officers violate their civil rights. It eliminates the shield of Qualified Immunity to allow victims the opportunity to seek justice.”