Eric Garner’s mother called on Tuesday for the NYPD to fire all the officers involved in the death of her son in 2014.
“It’s been four years and my family has not seen any real action taken by the [Bill] de Blasio administration for police misconduct,” Gwen Carr said at a news conference on the steps of City Hall with elected officials and activists.
“We want you to fire those officers who were involved,” she said, directing her ire toward de Blasio. Activists also demanded the city trelease the names of all officers involved in the death and let the public know the outcomes of any disciplinary proceedings.
Garner, 43, died after he was placed in a chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was arresting him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on a sidewalk in Tompkinsville, Staten Island, on July 17, 2014. The city medical examiner determined that Garner died of “compression of neck (choke hold)” and “compression of chest” while police restrained him. Garner’s obesity and asthma contributed to his death, officials said.
The NYPD said Monday it would begin an investigation into Garner’s death if the U.S. Department of Justice does not announce whether it will file charges by Aug. 31. It had previously deferred taking action until the federal probe, which began in 2016, was complete.
“It has become clear that a definite date by which time a final decision by the US DOJ will be rendered in this matter cannot be predicted,” the police department’s lawyer Lawrence Byrne wrote in a letter to the Justice Department.
A Staten Island grand jury in late 2014 declined to indict any officers in Garner’s death. Pantaleo is currently on modified duty while Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, who faced administrative charges of failure to supervise in the confrontation, was placed on modified assignment in January 2016 and returned to full duty in May, officials said.
Carr and advocates say the letter the NYPD sent only proves that the delay in a disciplinary investigation was “unjustified,” and they believe there is no reason to wait until Aug. 31. Instead, speakers asked the city to immediately launch an investigation, rather than wait until September.
“Daniel Pantaleo should be fired,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. “Any officer involved in this death should not be on the police force any longer.”
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said in a statement Monday that federal officials should end a “highly irregular fishing expedition by those seeking an indictment at all costs.” Meanwhile, Civilian Complain Review Board Chairman Fred Davie said in a statement the agency “stands ready to prosecute Officer Pantaleo as it does in cases in which the board substantiates misconduct against a member of the NYPD and recommends charges and specifications.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Leticia James suggsted that the federal probe has suffered under the Trump administration.
“Everyone knows that the Department of Justice changed hands in an election we suffer from every day. But the collateral damage cannot be the Garner family,” Stringer said. “We all know they shut the doors on the investigation,” James said.
After the grand jury declined to prosecute the officers, the Garner case became part of a national conversation about race and policing. Johnson credited the outrage about the case with helping to inspire the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Four years ago, many of us had not heard of Eric Garner. Now he is known all over the world. And his death sparked a movement that is long overdue and that is based on the simple notion that black lives matter.”
With Anthony M. DeStefano