Last Tuesday, Attorney General William P. Barr ordered that the Department of Justice drop its investigation into the death of Eric Garner. Daniel Pantaleo, the white NYPD officer who threw Garner to the pavement in a chokehold, will face no federal charges. Since Garner’s death in July of 2014, Pantaleo has remained on the New York police force on desk duty. For five years, he has been collecting paychecks and pension benefits.
To justify the decision, prosecutors claimed there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Pantaleo committed a crime. A video recorded on a bystander’s cell phone, made public and viewed millions of times, showed in plain view Pantaleo hurling Garner to the ground with an arm clenched around his throat, after trying to arrest Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes. Several other officers pressed their weight against Garner and ignored his final words, which he repeated eleven times: “I can’t breathe.”
Across the country, protestors echoed those words, which became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. And yesterday, Garner’s mother Gwen Carr spoke to reporters after the DOJ’s decision was made public. “Today, we can’t breathe,” she said. Garner’s family urged New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio to “step up” and fire Pantaleo.
Garner’s daughter Emerald Garner asserted, “No, we will not rest. No, we will not be calm . . . Don’t apologize to me, fire the officer. Don’t give me your condolences, I heard that five years ago.”
Commissioner James P. O’Neill is now the only individual with the capacity to fire or otherwise punish Pantaleo. His decision will be released after the police administrative judge issues her verdict.
Top image courtesty of ABC News
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Jay Graham is a freelance writer from Seattle. Their work explores politics and pop culture with a focus on gender, queerness, music, and horror.