NEW YORK, United States (AFP) — A US police officer was sacked Monday for putting a black man in a banned chokehold just before his death five years ago in a case that fuelled nationwide protests.
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill told reporters Daniel Pantaleo was dismissed from the force over the death of Eric Garner during an arrest in July 2014.
The incident stimulated “Black Lives Matter” protests which called for police to be held accountable for the deaths of unarmed African-Americans in custody or facing arrest.
Pantaleo’s sacking comes after NYPD Deputy Commissioner and departmental administrative judge Rosemarie Maldonado recommended earlier this month that he be fired.
Pantaleo was suspended pending the decision of O’Neill, who had the final say on the officer’s future.
“It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer serve as a New York City police officer,” O’Neill said, describing it as “an immediate termination”.
He added that it had been a difficult decision for him but he was absolutely sure he had made the correct one, adding that the Garner family had suffered a terrible tragedy.
Four officers attempted to arrest Garner, 43, on suspicion of illegally selling cigarettes on a sidewalk in Staten Island on July 17, 2014.
In a video recorded by a bystander, which was posted online and went viral, Pantaleo can be seen putting his arm tightly around Garner’s neck and driving the much larger suspect into the pavement before releasing him.
Meanwhile, another officer pressed Garner’s head to the pavement.
Garner, who resisted arrest but was unarmed, complained 11 times that he could not breathe — a refrain that would become a rallying cry for protesters.
Garner appeared to lose consciousness, and the father-of-six was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
On July 16, the US Department of Justice determined that Pantaleo would not face federal charges, a decision that Garner’s family slammed as an “insult.”
The decision came after the victim’s family appealed to the Justice Department to consider whether federal criminal or civil rights charges could be brought against one or more of the officers in the case.
A New York state grand jury decided in December 2014 that there was insufficient evidence to support homicide charges against Pantaleo, amid claims that Garner suffered from a heart condition and asthma that could have caused his death.