NEW YORK – A deputy commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD) recommended on Friday that Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired for his part in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.
Rosemarie Maldonado, who acted as judge in the NYPD disciplinary trial, concluded that Pantaleo should be dismissed for using a chokehold to restrain the African-American man.
The recommendation is non-binding.
In accord with “longstanding practice,” Pantaleo was suspended, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Phillip Walzak said, adding that the department would have no further comment on the case until Police Commissioner James O’Neill made a final determination on the matter.
Garner, 43, who was overweight and asthmatic, died after Pantaleo placed an arm against his neck while trying to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.
The July 17, 2014, incident, filmed by a passerby, sparked protests and anger in the city, which has witnessed a succession of cases where people – usually minorities – suffered death or injury at the hands of the NYPD.
Garner can be heard on the recording telling Pantaleo – who is white – and the other officers: “I can’t breathe,” and that phrase became a theme of demonstrations against police violence across the United States.
Though New York’s medical examiner classified the death as a homicide, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo and the US Department of Justice recently announced that it would not bring federal civil rights charges against the officer.
Garner’s family, who four years ago accepted a $5.9 million settlement from the city, have long called for Pantaleo’s firing and on Friday they urged O’Neal to act on Maldonado’s recommendation.
“Today’s decision confirms what we already knew but we are reinforced by the judge’s recommendation to fire Daniel Pantaleo. He committed police misconduct causing the death of my father Eric Garner,” Emerald Snipes Garner said in a statement.
“We have waited five years and the time is now for justice. We are calling on Commissioner James O’Neal to follow the recommendation and fire Daniel Pantaleo now,” she said.
New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, praised the disciplinary process as a “a step towards justice and accountability,” but refused to say what he thought should happen to Pantaleo.
“Again, what I am talking about today is a fair and impartial process has occurred. That’s all I have to say,” the mayor, who is also a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said when a reporter asked whether Pantaleo should be fired.
Protesters in the crowd for Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Detroit directed shouts of “Fire Pantaleo” at De Blasio.