New York, NY – New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Daniel Pantaleo was suspended on Friday after an NYPD trial judge said he was guilty of using a chokehold on Eric Garner and should be fired.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado issued a non-binding verdict that said Officer Pantaleo was not guilty of aggravated assault or obstructing breathing, but that he had violated department policy regarding the use of chokeholds, WABC reported.
Deputy Commissioner Maldonado’s recommendation will be forwarded to NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neill, and he will make the ultimate determination about the fate of the officer’s employment.
However, in the meantime, Officer Pantaleo was suspended, which is customary when a city employee has received a recommendation for termination, WABC reported.
Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Lynch warned of the impact on the entire police force if Commissioner O’Neill took the recommendation to fire Officer Pantaleo.
"This decision is pure political insanity. If it is allowed to stand, it will paralyze the NYPD for years to come," PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Garner’s family gathered with activists such as the Reverend Al Sharpton for a press conference to demand that Officer Pantaleo be fired, WABC reported.
"The commissioner needs to immediately, unequivocally accept the recommendation of the judge and do it right away," Sharpton told reporters.
Deputy Commissioner Maldonado’s ruling was also sent to Officer Pantaleo’s legal team.
Both sides have two weeks to submit their responses to Commissioner O’Neill’s office before he can make any final determination about the officer’s fate, WABC reported.
The announcement comes just days after NYPD officers followed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to the Democratic Presidential debate in Detroit to protest his appearance on the stage.
The first Democratic presidential debate in June did nothing to improve that relationship when de Blasio told America that he had counseled his biracial son Dante on “how to protect himself in the streets of our city… including the fact that he has to take special caution because there have been too many tragedies between young men and our police.”
In the month since then, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would not be charging Officer Pantaleo in the death of Garner, causing outrage in the community.
In response, de Blasio announced that going forward, officers would be disciplined before investigations were completed.
And more recently, criminals have been dumping buckets of water on police officers responding to emergency calls in various parts of the city.
On Wednesday morning, New York State Assemblyman Mike LiPetri, of Long Island, announced he was proposing legislation that would make it a Class E felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to throw liquid on a police officer.
During the press conference to announce the bill, LiPetri called on de Blasio to bring the matter up on stage during the debate that night and show his support for law enforcement.
It didn’t happen.
Instead, the mayor became the target of more than one opponent in Detroit for not having fired Officer Pantaleo in relation to the death of Garner and still managed to evade answering whether he thought the officer should be fired.
On Friday morning, after Deputy Commissioner Maldonado’s ruling was announced, de Blasio played the same game with reporters at a press conference and refused to say what he thought should happen.
“We as a city need to end this chapter and move forward,” de Blasio said, sounding more like a candidate than the mayor.
He reiterated his condolences to and support for the Garner family, and once again blamed federal prosecutors for dragging their feet on the whole process.
Officer Pantaleo was on desk duty for five years after the incident with Garner in July of 2014 until he was suspended on Aug. 2.
Garner was arrested by NYPD officers on July 17, 2014, after police stopped him for selling individual, untaxed loose cigarettes on a city sidewalk.
He resisted arrest and fought with officers who struggled to take the 350-pound man into custody.
In the process of subduing Garner, video taken by witnesses showed that Officer Pantaleo had his arm around Garner's neck and pressed his face against the sidewalk.
Garner repeatedly told officers “I can’t breathe,” a phrase that became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter in the months that followed.
Officer Pantaleo later said he tried to use a “seatbelt maneuver” on Garner, and did not mean to put the much larger man into a choke hold.
Garner lost consciousness on the sidewalk, and died in the hospital an hour later from a medical emergency.
The autopsy report showed no damage to any area of his neck, and it was determined that he died of a medical emergency induced by officers who were arresting him. The medical examiner declared it was a homicide.
A New York Grand Jury declined to indict on any criminal charges.
The federal inquiry has dragged on for years and split the Justice Department in half between those who want to go after the officer and those who thought the officer did nothing wrong, according to The New York Times.
Donoghue explained federal prosecutors’ decision not to charge Officer Pantaleo.
The U.S. attorney said that while Garner’s death was a tragedy, “the evidence does not support charging Police Officer Pantaleo with a federal civil rights violation.”
He said federal prosecutors could not prove that the officer “willfully used excessive force to violate Mr. Garner’s rights as required under the law,” The New York Times reported.