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New York police officer sacked over choking death of black man

AFP  |  New York 

A US police offer 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.

Garner's last words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for the demonstrators.

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 said that it had been a difficult decision, adding that some police officers would be "angry" with him, but he was absolutely sure he had made the correct one.

"Make no mistake about it, this was a tragedy for the Garner family. I fully understand that. Mr Garner was somebody's son, somebody's dad. Everybody in the NYPD understands that," he said.

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.

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.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said O'Neill's decision to fire Pantaleo would bring some relief to Garner's relatives.

"For over five years, the Garner family and communities across the country have waited for justice in the death of Eric Garner," she said in a statement.

"While we will never be able to change the events that transpired or bring Mr. Garner back, today, some semblance of justice is finally being served," James added.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, August 20 2019. 01:00 IST
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