He cited Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s exemplary record, which includes 289 arrests.
He said the 13-year veteran of the NYPD had effected a lawful arrest in Staten Island in July 2014, and that Eric Garner repeatedly resisted.
And he acknowledged that as a cop, he himself “may have made a similar mistake.”
Yet, in the end, Police Commissioner James O’Neill showed Pantaleo no mercy.
On Monday, he fired Pantaleo, agreeing with an NYPD administrative judge who two weeks ago found the officer guilty of violating a department ban on a chokehold that led to Garner’s death and recommended he be fired from the force.
The dismissal also follows a Staten Island grand jury decision not to indict the officer and a ruling by the Department of Justice not to pursue charges of civil rights violations. And it means Pantaleo will lose his pension, although O’Neill said contributions the officer made toward the pension will be returned.
Less than two hours after O’Neill held a news conference to announce the dismissal, Police Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch said he was issuing a vote of no confidence in O’Neill and his boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Lynch and Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said that the NYPD had agreed to a deal on Friday that would allow Pantaleo to retire and keep his pension. The officer who presented the pension deal to Pantaleo was Chief of Department Terence Monahan in an approach approved by O’Neil, according to sources who requested anonymity to speak frankly about a personnel matter.
The deal was pulled the next day after O’Neill met with de Blasio, Lynch said. Still, O’Neill maintained Monday that firing Pantaleo was his decision alone.
In light of his compliments about Pantaleo on Monday, I asked O’Neill why he had refused to allow the officer to retire so he could keep his pension. He declined to comment.
At his own news conference Monday, de Blasio said he wouldn’t believe anything Lynch said.
If anyone thinks that firing Pantaleo ends a five-year chokehold case that has become part of the nation’s anti-police narrative, he or she is mistaken.
This is the beginning of a whole new dynamic for the NYPD.