New York, NY – A fundraiser in support of former New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Daniel Pantaleo raised more than $140,000 in less than three days to help the officer who was fired Monday in connection with the death of Eric Garner.
The GoFundMe account was set up on Aug. 2, the day 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.
Officer Pantaleo was suspended from duty the same day.
As of Thursday evening, over 2,500 people had donated over $140,000.
The description of the campaign on GoFundMe said former Officer Pantaleo had a newborn baby at home and bills to pay, and called the officer’s firing political.
"Mayor de Blasio's anti-police rhetoric contributed toward the decision to fire him. Let's help an officer in need who was only doing his job!" the organizer posted on the page.
A competing GoFundMe page vows that they will raise a dollar for Eric Garner's family for every dollar raised for Pantaleo. As of Thursday evening, they are a little behind on their 1:1 goal.
When NYPD Police Commissioner O’Neill announced Officer Pantaleo’s termination on Monday, he insisted that politics had nothing to do with his decision and said that he supported Maldonado’s recommendation.
“The unintended consequence of Mr. Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own,” Commissioner O’Neill told reporters at a press conference at NYPD headquarters.
He disputed rumors that City Hall and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had ordered him to fire the controversial police officer, and said his 34 years as an NYPD police officer had made it a difficult decision.
“If I was still a cop, I’d probably be mad at me. ‘You’re not looking out for us.’ But I am,” Commissioner O’Neill said.
He said that he had considered a separation option for Officer Pantaleo that would have let him keep his pension, but ultimately, decided to do a straight-forward termination.
New York City Public Defender Rebecca J. Kavanagh told Newsweek that the success of Pantaleo’s GoFundMe was a bad thing.
"There is already massively disparate policing of minority communities," Kavanagh said. "Police killings, like Eric Garner's, have created an almost complete breakdown in trust. When black and brown people then learn that a large number of police officers not only support the cop who killed him, but subscribe to overtly racist views, then whatever trust there is left is potentially totally destroyed."
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 dragged on for five years and ended in July with federal prosecutors deciding not to charge Officer Pantaleo.
Attorney Stuart London said that now-former Officer Pantaleo would be filing an appeal of his termination under Article 78.