NEW YORK — Four years after New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo put a chokehold on Eric Garner and killed him outside a Staten Island beauty supply store, the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board said it will hold disciplinary hearings to determine if Pantaleo is to face any sanction. Even though millions watched the killing on a video taken by a bystander that was posted on the internet, no charges were brought against Pantaleo or any other cop involved.
The cop has been on “desk duty” since Garner’s death. A New York Police Department-employed trial judge will oversee the internal proceedings, but only the NYPD Commissioner can order any disciplinary action. Garner’s crime? Allegedly selling loose cigarettes without collecting New York sales tax.
The police department itself will conduct the departmental trial of Pantaleo’s commanding officer, Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, who was also present when Garner was killed. Adonis was returned to full duty in May. Neither of these proceedings are criminal trials, the most severe punishment would be termination.
Protests erupted in New York and across the country in December 2014 after a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” demonstrators chanted, the last words Garner can be heard saying repeatedly on the video as the cop chokes him. The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide. And in 2017 the Civilian Complaint Review Board determined Pantaleo used a banned chokehold.
The protests were fueled by outrage over several other police killings that year — Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August; Akai Gurley in Brooklyn in November; and two days later that month 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.
“It’s outrageous that Pantaleo and the other cops involved in killing my son are still being paid huge salaries. They should have been fired immediately. They should have been indicted. They should have been convicted. They should be in jail,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told the Militant. “The police are not prosecuted like the rest of us would be.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the police department said it held off on convening disciplinary hearings to allow the Justice Department to complete a civil rights probe. However, the Journal reported, there is no law requiring the city to wait.
“It’s unacceptable that the NYPD is saying that only two officers will face discipline charges when many more were involved in murdering my son, trying to cover it up, and other related misconduct,” Carr said in a July 19 statement. “There were over 5 officers on video using force or failing to intervene as my son Eric pleaded, ‘I can’t breathe,’ 11 times.”
“It’s past time for [New York Mayor Bill] de Blasio and the NYPD to stop playing games with my son’s death and release the names of all the officers responsible for his murder, [who] tried to cover it up and engaged in other related misconduct,” she said, “and bring disciplinary charges to fire all of them.”