Eric Garner’s cry of “I can’t breathe” became a battle cry for the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality.
USA TODAYNYPD Commissioner James O’Neill’s decision to fire the officer who placed Eric Garner in aÂ chokeholdÂ moments before his death on a New York City streetÂ drew outrage Monday from the police union and a guarded “thank you” from one of Garner’s children.Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, was accused of placing a banned chokehold on Garner while arresting him outside a Staten Island convenience store.Â Garner’s repeated criesÂ of “I can’t breathe” became a battle cry for the Black Lives Matter movementÂ against police brutality.”I can tell you that had I been in Officer Pantaleo’s situation, I may have made similar mistakes,” O’Neill, who served as a uniformed officer for more than three decades, said at a press conference Monday. “But none of us can take back our decisions, particularly when they result in the death of another human being.”An autopsy found Garner’s death was caused in part by the chokehold and the case was ruled aÂ homicide. O’Neill said Pantaleo was correct when he initially used the chokehold, but that when Garner was under control he should have switched to a “less lethal” alternative.People participate in a protest to mark the five-year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner on July 17, 2019, in New York.Â (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)A local grand jury and federal prosecutors declined to charge Pantaleo.Â On Aug 2, however, aÂ departmental trial judge recommended the 13-year department veteranÂ be fired.”Mr. Garner was somebody’s son, somebody’s dad,” O’Neill said. “Everybody in the NYPD understands that.”Garner’s daughter, Emerald, said the decision doesn’t mean an end to the case. She said she wants congressional hearings, will continue to push to have aÂ criminal case reopenedÂ and wants other officers involved in the arrest held accountable.Â “Commissioner O’Neill, I thank you for doing the right thing,” she said a press conference. “You finally made the decision that should have been made five years ago.”Police union President PatrickÂ Lynch expressed outrage atÂ O’Neill’s decision, accusing the commissioner of “cringing in fear” of anti-police activists and leaving the department “rudderless and frozen” by a lack of leadership.”He has chosen politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead,” Lynch said.Activist Carmen Perez, a co-founder of the Women’s March and CEO of The Gathering for Justice, calledÂ Pantaleo a “dishonest officer” but said hisÂ firing “provides cover to the NYPD to continue resisting our continues calls for more accountability and transparency.”Garner, 43, was accused of illegally selling single cigarettes outside the store when officersÂ attempted to arrest him inÂ a struggleÂ captured on video. Garner gasped repeatedly that he could not breathe afterÂ Pantaleo and other officers knocked him to the ground.The video became a social media phenomenon that triggered protests and charges of police brutality.The cityÂ paid a $5.9 million settlement to the estate of the married father of six children.Â O’Neill said Monday there were “no victors” in the case.”If I was a police officer I probably would not be happy,” O’NeillÂ said. “But someone calls for help, dials 911, somebody flags them down, they are not going to think about this decision.”AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideRead or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/19/eric-garners-death-officer-daniel-pantaleo-fired/2051861001/