On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, 43, was targeted for enforcement on suspicion of illegally selling loosies, or individual cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner. In a video caught by a bystander and friend, Ramsey Orta, officer Daniel Pantaleo is seen holding Garner in a chokehold during a pile on of officers until his eventual death, blatantly ignoring his cries for help and repeated statements of “I can’t breathe.”
Since the horrific ending to what some believe has amplified both the fight against police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, Garner’s children, Emerald Snipes, and Erica Garner, have been fighting for justice and consequences that would hold Pantaleo responsible for his actions. Erica, unfortunately, passed away from a heart attack in December of 2017 and was never able to see justice.
After a lengthy civil rights investigation lasting more than five years, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill announced on Monday August 19th, that Pantaleo, one of the police officers responsible for the death of Eric Garner, has been fired.
The decision to fire Pantaleo came at the recommendation of both a departmental trial judge and Commissioner O’Neill, who stated to the NY Times, “The unintended consequence of Mr. Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own,” Commissioner O’Neill said. “It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”
O’Neill further noted that while Pantaleo was correct in initially using the chokehold, he should have switched to a far less lethal alternative once the situation was under control. Pantaleo will not receive a pension due to the dismissal, but he will be repaid what he put into the fund.
The dismissal of Pantaleo from the NYPD is seldom justice in the eyes of the Garner family and everyone else advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement. It is clear police ideology and protocol have an extremely long way to come; especially in terms of justice for Eric Garner. Not only were O’Neill’s comments representative of the lack of change to come, but the Police Benevolent Association—the largest police union in NYC—continues to show their support for Pantaleo, noting that they will file to appeal his termination immediately.
While pleased to finally see Pantaleo fired, Emerald Snipes, Eric Garner’s daughter, explained in an exclusive interview with the Emerald, that the fight for justice is far from over.