Five years after Eric Garner’s death, the New York City police officer who placed him in an illegal chokehold during an arrest as Garner repeatedly cried out, “I can’t breathe,” has been fired. The announcement was made Monday by NYPD commissioner James O’Neill.
During a press conference, O’Neill said that he agreed with a police department disciplinary judge’s decision that officer Daniel Pantaleo should no longer serve on the police force. Garner was arrested in 2014 for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island. Pantaleo, however, used a deadly chokehold on Garner, which the administrative judge found triggered an asthma attack that ultimately led to his death. The incident was captured on a widely viewed cellphone video that showed Garner saying, “I can’t breathe,” 11 times.
His last words became a rallying cry in the Black Lives Matter movement and galvanized protests around the world.
“It’s an extremely difficult decision,” O’Neill said, according to ABC News. “If I was still a cop, I’d probably be mad at me… [but] it’s my responsibility as police commissioner to look out for the city.” He added that it could have been him in Pantaleo’s position during his 34-year stint as a beat cop.
Following Garner’s death, Pantaleo, a 35-year-old white cop, was placed on desk duty and collected an annual salary of more than $97,000. Because of his dismissal, he will lose some benefits but not his pension.
In response to the announcement, Rev. Al Sharpton said that “we are relieved but we are not celebratory. There is nothing to celebrate.” He added that “today Daniel Pantaleo lost his job, but five years ago, Eric Garner lost his life.”