New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday a measure of justice had finally been served for the death of Eric Garner after an NYPD judge recommended the police officer who killed him in 2014 be fired.
“Until today, the Garner family has been failed by this entire process,” he said. “Today we finally saw a step towards justice and accountability,”
Daniel Pantaleo was immediately suspended without pay by the NYPD on Friday after a department judge recommended his termination for the death of Garner in 2014. The recommendation came after an NYPD trial this summer that heard Pantaleo violated department policy by using a prohibited chokehold on Garner—who cried out “I can’t breathe” before dying. NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill will decide whether to fire Pantaleo.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, blamed de Blasio for waiting so long.
“My family and I have been fighting for five long years for justice and accountability for Eric’s murder—and Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD have put up roadblocks and delays every step of the way,” she said.
Carr said she feels “some relief” to learn of the recommendation, but bemoaned she can’t read the judge’s report—owing to a new interpretation of a longstanding state law protecting the privacy of civil servants that the city found shortly after Garner’s death.
“It’s past time for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD to end their obstruction, stop spreading misleading talking points, and finally take action for my son. My son deserves more than recommendations; he deserves justice.”
De Blasio blamed the Justice Department for why it took so long to begin the NYPD trial of Pantaleo, saying officials in Washington asked the city not to move ahead while federal prosecutors evaluated whether Pantaleo violated Garner’s civil rights. The investigation languished in the department across two administrations before finally ending earlier this month with a decision not to not to charge Pantaleo, one day before the statute of limitations ran out.
While the mayor said he did not read the judge's 47-page decision, he declined to say whether he agreed with the recommendation on Pantaleo, citing the “ongoing” legal process. Instead, de Blasio insisted the “fair and impartial” trial was the first step toward healing for the Garner family.
“I know the Garner family. They've gone through extraordinary pain,” de Blasio said. They are waiting for justice and are going to get justice. There's finally going to be justice. I have confidence in that, in the next 30 days, in New York."
Panteleo’s lawyer said his client is “disappointed,” saying he only “acted the way he was taught to act.”
The head of the city’s largest police union unloaded on de Blasio, who he said has “lost the confidence” of police officers after his Friday remarks.
Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, also called Garner protesters “criminal advocates,” claiming that they have “frozen” the police department.
“The decision that was passed down today saying that this police officer was reckless is ludicrous. The New York City police officers now will be considered reckless every time they put their hands on someone,” he said in a press conference.
“This is not just a fluke that happened one time in Staten Island, this can happen several times a tour,” he added. “When you call 911, what do you expect us to do?”
O’Neill is expected to make a decision within the next two weeks.