This brings to an end a five-year legal saga which sparked both local and federal investigations which both ended with no charges against Panteleo or the other officers involved. Garner was seen on video telling officers he could not breathe while Panteleo was subduing him in order to effect an arrest.
Garner was taken down by Panteleo after a dispute about whether he was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on the street illegally.
Garner’s final words became a rallying cry for protests against police practices as part of a groundswell of demonstrations that fuelled the Black Lives Matter movement that sought to highlight the treatment by law enforcement of minority groups in the country.
Officer Panteleo had been placed on desk duty since the widely seen cellphone video of him using a banned chokehold on Garner was shared. Despite the video evidence both state and federal investigations failed to bring charges.
NYPD administrative judge recommended Panteleo be terminated – a recommendation followed by the Commissioner James O’Neill despite an earlier grand jury decision declining to indict the officer and a subsequent Justice Department decision not to pursue federal civil rights charges.
“No-one believes that officer Panteleo got out of bed on July 17th 2014 thinking he would make choices and take actions during an otherwise routine arrest that would lead to another person’s death. But an officer’s choices and actions even made under extreme pressure matter. It’s unlikely that Mr Garner thought he was in such poor health that a brief struggle with the police would cause his death. He should have decided against resisting arrest but a man with a family lost his life and that is an irreversible tragedy. And a hardworking police officer with a family, a man who took this job to do well, to make a difference in his home community, had now lost his chosen career. And that is a different kind of tragedy. In this case the unintended consequences of Mr Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own. Therefore I agree with the deputy Commissioner of trials, legal findings and recommendations that it is clear that Daniel Panteleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City Police officer,” says O’Neill.
A judge in 2017 approved a nearly $4 million settlement to the Garner family from a $ 5.9 million wrongful death settlement with the city.
“In carrying out the court’s verdict in this case I take no pleasure. I know that many will disagree with this decision and that is their right. There are absolutely no victors here today, not the Garner family, not the community at large and certainly not the courageous men and women of the police department who put their own lives on the line in service to the people of this great city,” says O’Neill.
The city’s Mayor Bill De Blasio also weighed in after the decision was handed down, “As all this stretched on, it reinforced the suspicion, as one felt by millions that justice doesn’t exist for people that look like Eric Garner. Today, we finally saw a step towards justice and accountability. We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial, and I hope that this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace.”
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association criticized the decision to fire Panteleo, warning it would be a moral blow to its members in the police department.