Current and retired NYPD officers, their families and supporters of police enforcement came together Sunday to rally behind NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. He's accused of fatally choking Eric Garner and could lose his job because of how he handled the 2014 arrest.
“He did absolutely nothing wrong. He went out that day because he was sent out by the higher up,” said retired NYPD detective Rafael Morales.
Five years ago, video of the encounter sparked chants of "I can't breathe." Garner's last words became a rallying cry against aggressive police tactics.
But a grand jury chose not to indict Pantaleo on any criminal charges relating to Garner's death. And the officer is not facing any federal civil rights charges either.
Last week, however, an NYPD judge overseeing Pantaleo's departmental trial recommended he be fired.
Sunday's Blue Lives Matter rally on Staten Island was an effort to show unwavering support for the officer.
“Cops don’t wake up in the morning and say you know what, I’m going to go out and kill somebody,” said retied officer Joseph Lamberti.
Eric Garner's family expressed a much different opinion during their own press conference over the weekend.
“If this police officer is not fired, you will see the biggest march that you have ever seen in NYC," said Emerald Garner Snipes, Eric Garner’s daughter.
Police union leaders have been vocal about their disappointment with the de Blasio Administration's handling of this case, saying city hall doesn't support police.
"He’s going to possibly be fired for doing what just about any other police officer on the job would have done in that situation,” said City Councilman Joseph Borelli.
Some are calling for unity.
“We are just one city and it’s not that we are out here against everybody,” said retired officer Barbara Quinn-Jennerich.
Even though people at the rally say they want the NYPD to keep Pantaleo as an employee, they recognize that it may no longer be safe for him to patrol the streets.
“We’re really hoping that Danny is able to keep his job, but we do understand the severity of this,” said Joseph Imperatrice, the founder of Blue Lives Matter New York. “And we stand behind him and law enforcement everywhere.”