What to Know
- Reactions poured in after NYPD judge recommended firing cop accused of using a banned chokehold in the July 2014 death of Eric Garner
- Judge releases preliminary finding that NYPD cop accused of using banned chokehold in July 2014 death of Eric Garner should be fired
- Garner, an unarmed black man, refused to be handcuffed after police stopped him on NY street corner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes
Those who work and live in the Staten Island neighborhood where, in 2014, Eric Garner was stopped by police prior to his death, reacted to news of an NYPD judge recommending the officer accused of playing a role in his death be fired.
“It seems like a no-brainer and it seems long overdue that should have happened within weeks or months of the incident,” Nadette Stasa said.
Stasa, who works mere steps from the exact spot where the confrontation between NYPD cops and Garner took place five years ago, called the incident “a real tragedy.”
People have tried to move on as they wondered if anyone would be punished for the incident that ended with Garner dying. However, after years of waiting, NYPD Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado recommended Friday that officer Daniel Pantaleo lose his job after she determined that he violated the patrol guide by recklessly using a banned chokehold.
“The justice system is crazy. If I killed someone it’s not going to take five years to put me in jail. It’s going to be quick,” Brad Loya said.
Meanwhile, others say the decision does little in fixing societal issues.
“Even if they fire Pantaleo, it doesn’t stop the problems we have in this country of racism and this police state that is us against them when we are all humans and we should all be working together,” Jason Dyzenhaus said.
Now that the NYPD judge ruled in the case, the two sides have weeks to respond to the judge, who’ll give a final report to Police Commissioner James O’Neill for a final determination.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday, following the ruling, he will not and legally cannot tell O’Neill what to do. That did not stop protesters from interrupting the mayor's press conference, demanding the city follow the judge's recommendation.
There was also a demonstration outside police headquarters in Lower Manhattan Friday evening, with protesters demanding that Commissioner O’Neill fire Officer Pantaleo.
Garner, 43, was accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes when he was stopped by police on Staten Island on July 17, 2014, and refused to be handcuffed. Pantaleo is seen on a widely watched cellphone video putting Garner in an apparent chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy.
Garner, who had asthma, is heard on that video gasping, "I can't breathe." He was pronounced dead at a hospital. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide caused in part by the chokehold.
Garner's death sparked national protests about the treatment of black men and boys at the hands of white police officers.
Garner’s family received $5.9 million from the city in 2015 to settle a wrongful death claim. A state probe ended without criminal charges.
However, on Friday, the NYPD suspended Pantaleo for 30 days without pay, effective immediately following the decision that came out of the disciplinary trial. For Garner's daughter, Emerald, the ruling was bittersweet.
"This has been a long battle, five years too long, and finally someone has said this cop did something wrong," she said. "It's been way too long to say he did something wrong."
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has come under aggressive criticism during his presidential campaign for not firing Pantaleo (which, as a matter of law, he cannot do), cheered the decision.
"Today for the first time in these long five years, the system of justice is working," De Blasio said at a City Hall news conference.
“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our City’s history. Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made. In order to protect the integrity of the trial proceedings and conclusion, the NYPD will not comment further until the Police Commissioner makes the final determination," deputy commissioner Phillip Walzak said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Police Benevolent Association, the union representing Pantaleo, condemned the judge's decision in fiery terms.
At a Friday afternoon news conference, a highly agitated PBA President Pat Lynch raged that cops could no longer do their job properly.
"New York City police officers will now be considered reckless every time they put their hands on someone," Lynch said.
"The police department is frozen. They can't stop the killers, they can't stop the criminals."
Pantaleo's lawyer Stuart London maintained that the officer's case had been won in the courtroom but lost due entirely to politics.
Meanwhile, Fred Davie, chair of the CCRB, said in a statement Friday that the judge's preliminary decision confirmed Pantaleo committed misconduct the day Garner died -- and that his actions caused Garner's death.