Five years after Eric Garner died in police custody, an NYPD judge on Friday recommended that Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who put the Staten Island man in a chokehold, be fired.
The NYPD said Pantaleo was suspended, effective Friday. The department said suspension is "the longstanding practice in these matters when the recommendation is termination."
PANTALEO'S FATE IN THE POLICE COMMISSIONER'S HANDS NOW
The announcement now puts the fate of Pantaleo in the hands of Police Commissioner James O'Neill. But O'Neill's boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, is strongly suggesting that the officer will be dismissed.
"We finally saw a step toward justice and accountability," the mayor said at a news conference Friday. "There can never be another tragedy like this."
The NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials, Rosemarie Maldonado, issued her recommendation after presiding over a departmental trial.
Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold for seven seconds while trying to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on the street on Staten Island in 2014. During the struggle, Garner said 11 times he couldn't breathe, and then died. The officer's defense attorney said it was Garner's poor health that led to his death.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and Pantaleo's attorney will have two weeks to draft a response once that recommendation is passed on.
In a statement, CCRB Chair Fred Davie said, "Today's decision confirms what the Civilian Complaint Review Board always has maintained: Officer Daniel Pantaleo committed misconduct on July 17, 2014, and his actions caused the death of Eric Garner. The evidence the CCRB's prosecutors brought forth at trial was more than sufficient to prove that Pantaleo is unfit to serve. Commissioner O’Neill must uphold this verdict and dismiss Pantaleo from the Department, as was recommended by both the CCRB and the Deputy Commissioner of Trials."
During the Democratic presidential primary debate on Wednesday night, de Blasio implied that justice would be had in the Pantaleo case within 30 days.
The NYPD reaffirmed that the police commissioner will not be provided a formal report until after the report draft is reviewed by the CCRB and the defense. They said a determination will be made sometime this month.
CALLS FOR PANTALEO TO BE FIRED
In a news conference Friday, Emerald Snipes-Garner, one of Garner's children, called on O'Neill to fire Pantaleo.
"We've been waiting for five years for someone to say that he did something wrong, and they finally made that decision today. So we don't want to wait no more. Make your decision, Mr. O'Neill, as soon as possible," she said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said the decision was good for the city but added that it was not justice for the Garner family.
"Because justice for the Garner family would have been a federal proceeding or a criminal proceeding in the local courts," Sharpton said.
UNION PRESIDENT WARNS OF A CHILLING EFFECT
In a statement, Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association union for uniformed officers, blasted the decision.
"This judge ignored the evidence and trampled P.O. Pantaleo's due process rights in order to deliver the result that the grandstanding politicians and protesters demanded," Lynch's statement read, in part.
"Found him guilty on recklessness because the community called and we responded and someone resisted? That's reckless? That's asinine!" Lynch said in a news conference responding to the recommendation. "That's not reckless; that's our job."
Lynch warned that de Blasio and the commissioner would "lose the department" if Pantaleo is fired.
He urged police officers not to get involved in physical confrontations, even in emergency situations when people need help.
"When someone calls 911 and dispatchers call you, and there is a circumstance where you have to put your hands on someone, call your sergeant first, call emergency service second," Lynch said.
MORE PROTESTS FOR DE BLASIO
De Blasio said that "the justice system is working" in response to the news.
De Blasio's news conference following the decision was interrupted by protesters calling on Pantaleo to be fired.
The same chant was heard during the second Democratic debate on Wednesday, as both de Blasio and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker were interrupted by protesters.
A Staten Island grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against Pantaleo, and the Justice Department last month decided not to press federal civil rights charges, saying it couldn't prove the officer willfully used excessive force to violate Garner's rights.
Pantaleo had been on the NYPD payroll for the last five years, on modified duty and without his gun. He's now been suspended without pay, pending the commissioner's final decision. That's expected to be announced sometime this month.