An NYPD departmental judge has recommended that Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired for his involvement in the 2014 death of Eric Garner, multiple officials told ABC News.
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The verdict, which is non-binding, found Pantaleo, 33, guilty of using a chokehold on Garner but not guilty of aggravated assault.
Pantaleo has been suspended as of Friday, according to the NYPD.
The final decision on Pantaleo’s fate rests with Police Commissioner James O’Neill. His decision is expected in the coming week or two, per the policy guiding civil service disciplinary decisions.
“All of New York City understandably seeks closure to this difficult chapter in our city’s history,” Phillip Walzak, NYPD deputy commissioner of public information, said in a statement. “Premature statements or judgments before the process is complete however cannot and will not be made.”
Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, described the recommendation to terminate Pantaleo as “pure political insanity” that will “paralyze the NYPD for years to come.”
“This judge ignored the evidence and trampled P.O. Pantaleo’s due process rights in order to deliver the result that the grandstanding politicians and protesters demanded,” Lynch said. “The only hope for justice now lies with Police Commissioner O’Neill. He knows the message that this decision sends to every cop: we are expendable, and we cannot expect any support from the city we protect. He knows that if he affirms this horrendous decision, he will lose his police department.”
Garner, 43, was killed on July 17, 2014, after Pantaleo and his partner, Officer Justin D’Amico, stopped him for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes on the street in Staten Island. Pantaleo then grabbed Garner from behind and placed him in what appeared to be a chokehold.
The encounter was filmed by Garner’s friend Ramsey Orta, and Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breath,” became a national slogan for protests on police brutality on minorities. Orta said Garner was not selling cigarettes that day.
The use of the chokehold was banned by the NYPD in 1993. An internal investigation in January 2015 found that Pantaleo used a chokehold in his attempt to arrest Garner.
Pantaleo’s attorney, Stuart London, said his client used a takedown method called a “seatbelt” — not a chokehold — to get Garner to the ground.
An autopsy administered by the city’s medical examiner found that Garner died from events triggered by the alleged chokehold that ended with a fatal asthma attack.
The seven-day departmental trial, which began in May, was not a criminal proceeding but a matter before an NYPD administrative judge.
London previously told ABC New York station WABC that Pantaleo wanted to remain on the force.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to file federal charges against Pantaleo because a willful intent requirement could not be established, a senior official told ABC News.
A grand jury in New York City also declined to indict Pantaleo in December 2014.
Garner’s family spoke alongside the Rev. Al Sharpton Friday morning, calling on O’Neill to act on the judge’s recommendation.
“Commissioner O’Neill, fire Pantaleo,” Garner’s daughter, Emerald, said.
Sharpton said that while O’Neill “needs to immediately and unequivocally accept the recommendation of the judge,” his firing would not represent “justice for the Garner family.” Justice would have been a criminal or civil proceeding, Sharpton said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters in a news conference that the decision was a “step towards justice and accountability,” adding that the Garner family “has been failed by this entire process.”
“Full justice is when we never have another death,” de Blasio said. “That is all of our responsibility and requires us to change everything.”
New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board Chair Fred Davie said in a statement that the judge’s decision confirmed that Pantaleo committed misconduct and that Garner died as a result of the officer’s actions.
ABC News’ Christina Carrega contributed to this report.