The New York commissioner argues that making the decision to throw agent Daniel Pantaleo five years after the event was “extremely difficult”
Five years after African-American Eric Garner died asphyxiated in the hands of the police during his arrest, the New York Police Department fired agent Daniel Pantaleo on Monday. A disciplinary judge concluded earlier this month that Pantaleo, accused of suffocating Garner, used a prohibited technique at the time of detention. In the videos taken by witnesses of the brutal scene one could hear that the last words of the African American were “I can not breathe”, a litany he pronounced up to 11 times before dying in the streets of Staten Island. This case fueled the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, which fights police brutality applied to blacks.
New York police commissioner James P. O’Neill, who finally chose to fire Pantaleo, said it was “an extremely difficult decision.” Garner, 43, was arrested and reduced on the street until he died of suffocation because he was supposedly selling loose cigarettes without a license. Four months after the lethal episode, a grand jury from Staten Island exonerated Pantaleo. The then attorney general, Eric Holder, initiated an independent investigation to determine whether there was a violation of Garner’s civil rights.
In mid-July the Department of Justice closed the investigations on the death of the African American without presenting charges against any of the agents involved. Despite the videos, the Prosecutor’s Office said the evidence was “insufficient” to press charges against the police and prove in a trial that there was “intentional misconduct.” They also argued that the autopsy determined that death was caused by a “lethal succession of events.” Garner was overweight, asthma, diabetes and his heart size doubled that of a healthy adult.
“He was killed in the street and the policeman who killed him is still in the body,” lamented Emerald Snipes, Garner’s daughter outside the federal prosecutor’s office in Brooklyn when the news was heard. “Five years later, I don’t want to go into a room to get condolences. What I want is for justice to be done with my father.” Garner’s family accepted compensation of $ 5.9 million in 2015.
Those who defended officer Pantaleo claimed that firing him was an injustice because he had not violated police procedures. “He acted the way he was taught to act,” said Stuart London, Pantaleo’s lawyer. But the disciplinary process against the policeman concluded otherwise. Judge Rosemarie Maldonado’s report submitted on August 2 describes that the throttle key applied is prohibited in a detention in the middle of the street and recommended firing it. Since then he had been suspended from his work pending the opinion of Commissioner O’Neill.