CCRB substantiates complaints against cop who killed Eric Garner

Stephon Johnson | 9/14/2017, 2:24 p.m.
The New York Civilian Complaint Review Board has substantiated complaints made against the cop who killed Eric Garner in 2014.
Eric Garner and wife Esaw Garner

The New York Civilian Complaint Review Board has substantiated complaints made against the cop who killed Eric Garner in 2014.

According a report in Rolling Stone, officer Daniel Pantaleo did, in fact, use a chokehold on the 43-year-old Garner and also restricted Garner’s ability to breathe. Garner was killed July 14, 2014, as members of the New York Police Department attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. According to the NYPD manual, the use of a chokehold is prohibited. The killing was recorded on video.

During the struggle, Garner uttered, “I can’t breathe” multiple times. The phrase became a rallying cry for anti-police brutality activists, and shirts with the phrase were worn by athletes, including basketball star LeBron James.

Carolyn Martinez-Class, a representative for Communities United for Police Reform, thanked the CCRB for following through on its investigation and criticized the NYPD for not being forthright with this case.

“The CCRB should be applauded for moving forward to substantiate charges against officer Pantaleo, something that the NYPD should have done long ago,” said Class. “The NYPD has continued to drag its feet and has failed to take any action against the officers who killed Eric Garner more than three years ago, and continues to stall the scheduling of the disciplinary trials for officers involved in killing Ramarley Graham over five years ago.”

Class added, “It shouldn’t take the police department over three or five years after an incident of brutality, especially when civilians are unjustly killed, to hold officers accountable.”

A grand jury has been convened to consider pressing federal civil rights charges, but Pantaleo’s internal police discipline hearing might not come until after the federal resolution. The NYPD, however, isn’t legally required to wait for the Justice Department action to discipline the officers. In 1994, officer Francis Livoti was fired before being indicted on federal charges for killing Anthony Baez with a chokehold. South Carolina police officer Michael Slager was fired in the immediate aftermath of the murder of Walter Scott. Pantaleo previously avoided charges from a grand jury impaneled by former district attorney and current congressman, Dan Donovan.

Earlier this year, the website ThinkProgress obtained Pantaleo’s disciplinary records that were leaked by someone from the CCRB (who was subsequently fired). His complaint history surpassed that of the average officer. Pantaleo was among the 4.9 percent of officers that received eight or more complaints. Of the 4.9 percent, 2 percent of those officers had two or more complaints substantiated. Pantaleo had four.

Class said it’s up to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to hold Pantaleo accountable because the NYPD won’t do it.

“Pantaleo should have already been held accountable and fired, and the numerous other officers involved in killing Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and other police violence cases must also be held accountable by the de Blasio administration,” stated Class. “The de Blasio administration should ensure that the disciplinary trials against Pantaleo and other officers involved move forward swiftly, and that the NYPD stops delaying the trials against the officers charged years ago in the killing of Ramarley Graham—Sergeant Scott Morris and officer John McLoughlin.”