Additional reporting by Yoav Gonen
On the street where a Staten Island cop choked Eric Garner as he gasped, “I can’t breathe,” an NYPD judge’s recommendation to fire the officer came five years too late.
“It’s about time. He should’ve already been fired,” Tiara Banks, 30, said of Officer Daniel Pantaleo. “To see him walking around with no consequences all these years is heartbreaking.”
NYPD administrative judge Rosemarie Maldonado recommended Friday that Pantaleo, who put a chokehold on Garner five years ago, be fired. But Police Commissioner James O’Neill has the final say on whether the cop will lose his job.
Maldonado, a deputy commissioner who oversees disciplinary hearings, ruled nearly two months after an internal trial brought by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
The trial marked the last chance for any official punishment of Pantaleo after a Staten Island grand jury failed to indict him in December 2014 and the Justice Department declined to prosecute him on federal civil rights violations last month.
‘I’m Glad She Has a Conscience’
Doug Brenson — who first met Garner in 2008 outside a check-cashing business he owned at 202 Bay Street — told THE CITY he was happily surprised by the judge’s decision.
“I’m glad she has a conscience. This family has been through so much, especially now that Ben [Carr] passed,” said Brenson, referring to Garner’s stepfather who died of a heart attack on July 26. “But I’ll believe it when the commissioner actually goes through with it.”
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, has tirelessly called for all of the officers at the scene of his death to face criminal charges. The 65-year-old Stapleton resident, who was making funeral arrangements for her husband Friday, didn’t directly address the media.
In a written statement, she said: “It brings me some relief to learn that Judge Maldonado has recommended that Pantaleo be fired — but the recommendation is long overdue.”
“It’s past time for Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD to end their obstruction, stop spreading misleading talking points and finally take action for my son,” she added.
‘He Should Be in Jail’
Maldonado reportedly found Pantaleo was reckless and used excessive force when he pounced on Garner, who cops said sold untaxed loose cigarettes on the street.
Attorneys for Pantaleo, who was immediately suspended without pay for 30 days, and the CCRB have about two weeks to submit comments to O’Neill.
De Blasio — who had long said the city would take action after Justice Department decided whether to bring charges — told reporters Friday at City Hall: “Today we finally saw a step toward justice and accountability, we saw a process that was actually fair and impartial and I hope that this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure.”
Protesters burst into City Hall’s blue room during the news conference shouting, “Fire Pantaleo!” — echoing the cries that interrupted the mayor Wednesday night at the Democratic presidential primary debate in Detroit.
On Bay Street, Banks fondly remembered Garner “walking up and down the block with a big smile, waving at everybody.”
Albert Williams, a 39-year-old Tompkinsville resident who said he was with Garner when he died on July 17, 2014, was glad to hear about the Pantaleo verdict.
“At least he won’t be getting overtime, but he should be in jail,” Williams said. “Maybe they’ll think twice before they harass us.”
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