The New York Police Department has suspended Daniel Pantaleo — the officer who killed Eric Garner by placing him in a chokehold — hours after an administrative judge recommended he be fired.
The judge’s determination and the NYPD commissioner’s ultimate decision on Pantaleo’s fate are the final steps in the five-year-long case that sparked massive protests across the country, inspired in part by Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe!” It turned into a rallying cry in the Black Lives Matter movement.
The judge’s findings were submitted to Pantaleo’s lawyer, who has two weeks to respond before NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill decides whether to terminate the officer.
“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our City’s history,” the NYPD said in a statement. “Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made. In order to protect the integrity of the trial proceedings and conclusion, the NYPD will not comment further until the Police Commissioner makes the final determination.”
The president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, the police union, tweeted that the judge’s determination is “pure political insanity.”
Garner, a resident of Staten Island, died on July 17, 2014, after Pantaleo put him in a chokehold, which is prohibited by NYPD policy, during an attempt to arrest him over selling untaxed cigarettes. The city’s medical examiner declared Garner’s death a homicide, but a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo.