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Eric Garner's family meets with de Blasio, gets update on progress of NYPD trial

Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, met with Mayor

Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, met with Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday, the mayor's office said. Photo Credit: Li Yakira Cohen

Mayor Bill de Blasio met with Eric Garner's mother, widow and daughter on Thursday, however, he declined to give in to their demands to fire Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer involved in his death, according to the family.

Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, and daughter, Emerald Garner, joined protesters outside of Gracie Mansion, the mayor's residence in Yorkville after the meeting. Emerald Garner said de Blasio told them the decision to fire Pantaleo will be left to NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill.

"I spoke to the mayor and told him that Daniel Pantaleo, Justin D'Amico, Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, and every other officer who engaged in misconduct related to the murder of my son should have been fired years ago and must be fired now," Carr said in a statement after the protest. "It is outrageous that I have had to be fighting for five years to get the mayor to do his job to make sure that there is accountability when the NYPD murders our children."

Wednesday marked the five-year anniversary of Garner's deadly police encounter over allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island. His family attended a rally and march in lower Manhattan where hundreds of protesters demanded that de Blasio and the NYPD fire Pantaleo.

Demands for Pantaleo's firing ramped up this week following the Justice Department’s decision on Tuesday to not file civil rights charges in the case. The outcome of a long-delayed NYPD administrative trial that will determine whether Pantaleo violated any departmental rules remains unknown. If he's found guilty, Pantaleo could be fired by O'Neill.

De Blasio said he wanted to meet with the family to explain the next steps in the departmental trial.

"We did our best to explain the exact steps ahead, leading to the final resolution of the NYPD process next month, a process that [will] be fair and impartial," the mayor said in a statement. 

Thursday was the second day of a promised 11 days of protesting, a reference to the 11 times Garner is heard uttering "I can't breathe" in the video of his arrest. A massive crowd gathered outside of Gracie Mansion, chanting "Fire Pantaleo" and "No justice, no peace." Four people were seen sitting in the street with police surrounding them, however, it was unclear if anyone was arrested.

Emerald Garner told the protesters that she thanked de Blasio for meeting with the family, but added that they would continue to protest until the officer is fired. "What happened in that room is not going to stop us from what we’re doing out here today."

Garner's death, captured on cellphone video that went viral, sparked days of protests in 2014 as New Yorkers rallied behind his family to express outrage over the use of force by police.

Pantaleo is seen in the video approaching Garner, who was resisting arrest, from behind and attempting to restrain him by putting an arm around his shoulders and neck. He's accused of using a banned chokehold maneuver, which the medical examiner contributed to Garner's death in the official autopsy report, among other health-related issues such as his weight.

Garner's last words, "I can't breathe," have become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement sparked by his death.

Pantaleo's attorney has defended the officer by arguing he was using "arm bar" and "seat belt" techniques during the takedown, both of which are approved maneuvers by the NYPD.

In declining to prosecute Pantaleo, the Justice Department said prosecutors could not prove Pantaleo acted willfully as the federal law requires for prosecution.

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