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nypd officer who killed eric garner is finally fired

August 19, 2019
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Daniel Pantaleo, the white New York City police officer who was filmed putting Eric Garner in a chokehold during a July 2014 has been fired from the NYPD, following an internal review that showed he violated numerous departmental procedures. This comes weeks after after Garner’s family called for his termination after it was announced he would not face charges.

For a grieving family, the loss of a loved one is bad enough; but then came the grueling five-year fight for justice. Clinging to a flicker of hope that the officer and the system responsible for his death would be held accountable, Garner’s family reluctantly became activists. His daughter and mother speaking out against police violence and the interlocking systems of oppression against marginalized people that allows killers to go free. After a fight that claimed his daughter Erica, who died of a heart attack at age 27 after dedicating her life to the fight for justice that would not come.

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, holds a picture of her son at demonstration on July 7, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Earlier this summer, a long five years after Garner’s death, the Department of Justice announced they wouldn’t be bringing charges against his killer, arguing that there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Pantaleo intentionally sought to cause Garner harm. A dubious claim considering he used a chokehold, a move that has been explicitly banned by the NYPD for two decades.

After Garner’s death, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced a federal DOJ civil rights investigation. The case dragged on through Loretta Lynch’s tenure as attorney general, who despite continuing the investigation, did so toward the end of the Obama era, meaning the case would be passed along to the racists in the Trump administration. Garner’s family was critical of the way Obama officials handled the case, and unsurprisingly the Trump administration wasn’t much better.

Former Trump administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions is, openly, a white supremacist who has a decades-long record of opposing any effort toward racial justice. But it was ultimately his replacement, the current AG, Williams Barr, who sided against civil rights advocates and decided not to bring charges against Garner’s killer.

Barr hasn’t been shy about his feelings that “identity politics,” which at this point pretty much means any time a marginalized person advocates for themselves, is dividing the country. At the Combating Anti-Semitism Summit, Barr claimed that it isn’t the Nazis murdering people in our streets, or the racist tweeting hate speech at congresspeople of color in the White House that, is dividing our country: it’s people who advocate for racial justice that are the real problem.

“[U]nder the banner of identity politics some political factions are seeking to obtain power by dividing Americans and they undermine the values that draw us together, such as a shared commitment to our country’s success. This is the breeding ground for hatred and we must reject it,” Barr said.

After five years of fighting and holding out hope, a complete failure of justice on behalf of the federal government was a gut-punch. “The DOJ has failed us,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr said of the decision. “Five years ago my son said, ‘I can’t breathe’ 11 times. And today we can’t breathe because they have let us down.”

Garner’s case represents an interlocking failure at every level to secure the most basic human dignity for Black folks. Pushed to the fringes by a system that overlooks us, Garner was killed pleading for his life on video. In death, he was blamed for his own demise for being obese; the defense argued he was a “ticking time bomb” whose death wasn’t worth fighting for because he would have died anyway. The only person to do jail time in his case? His friend Ramsey Orta, who says police relentlessly harassed him after filming the viral video of Garner’s death.

For as unjust as the situation is, Garner’s family wasn’t done fighting. They called for the officer, who got a pay raise to $120,000 in 2016 and continued to rack up pension benefits while on desk duty, to face consequences within the NYPD.

“This is not an easy fight but we kept on pushing. And make no mistake about it, we’re going to still push,” Garner’s mother told reporters. “We’re asking the commissioner to make the right decision” she said, urging Pantaleo to be fired.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado concluded an internal investigation that found Pantaleo’s actions violated several NYPD policies and recommended that he be fired. After a suspension, Pantaleo was finally fired.

Pantaleo should be in prison for Eric Garner’s death, but at the very least, he’s already shown he can’t be trusted to “protect and serve” the citizens of New York.


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