NEW YORK – A New York Police Department administrative judge on Friday recommended that Daniel Pantaleo, the white police officer who used a fatal chokehold on an unarmed black man during an arrest in 2014, be fired, a city oversight body said.
Pantaleo had been on desk duty since he was seen in widely viewed cellphone videos using a banned chokehold on Eric Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk during an attempted arrest. Police believed Garner was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
Rosemarie Maldonado, a deputy police commissioner who oversees disciplinary hearings, reached her verdict after overseeing Pantaleo’s disciplinary trial earlier this year.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill is expected to follow the recommendation, CNN reported.
The police department said it would release a statement later on Friday.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had faced criticism and protests over continuing to employ Pantaleo as he campaigns to be the Democratic presidential candidate in next year’s national election, with Garner’s relatives and others long demanding that Pantaleo be fired.
The mayor has said he regrets his decision to postpone disciplinary proceedings against Pantaleo for what would become several years while a US Justice Department civil rights investigation was ongoing.
He reversed course last year, saying he would no longer wait for the Justice Department, and ordered the police department to begin the internal disciplinary trial. He said it would be unfair for him to weigh in on whether Pantaleo should be disciplined before the trial proceedings had concluded.
During that trial, prosecutors from the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, an oversight agency, argued that Pantaleo should be fired for using a banned chokehold. Pantaleo’s lawyers argued that Garner himself, not the officer, was to blame for his death, and that Pantaleo followed his training and orders from senior police.
“The evidence the CCRB’s prosecutors brought forth at trial was more than sufficient to prove that Pantaleo is unfit to serve,” CCRB Chairman Fred Davie said in a statement.
“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.”
In July, the Justice Department announced it had closed its civil rights investigation without bringing any criminal charges, nearly five years after a grand jury in Staten Island declined to indict Pantaleo on state charges for Garner’s death.