New testimony has revealed that an NYPD internal affairs investigation determined that New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo used a forbidden chokehold on Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after police wrestled him to the ground for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. On Monday, Deputy Inspector Charles Barton, the supervisor who oversaw the internal investigation, testified that in 2015 he recommended that disciplinary charges be brought against Pantaleo. Those charges were never filed. The revelation raises questions about why the NYPD never took action against Pantaleo, and allowed him to remain on desk duty for five years as a federal investigation dragged on. Now, an independent police watchdog agency, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, has brought charges of reckless use of a chokehold and intentional restriction of breathing against Pantaleo.
The testimony by Barton came out during Pantaleo’s long-delayed disciplinary trial. The trial centers on the question of whether he used a banned chokehold or a different technique taught in the Police Academy, and whether his actions were justified. Prosecutors have argued that bystander video of the arrest shows Pantaleo using lethal force, leading to Garner’s cardiac arrest. The harrowing video, which captures Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” set off protests and led to a national reckoning over racism in police departments.