Commissioner O’Neill caves in Pantaleo case

Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill announces the firing Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner.
Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill announces the firing Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner. Photo Credit: NYC Parks/Daniel Avila

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill caved when he fired Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Despite threats by Garner’s family and a cadre of city activists of massive protests if Pantaleo were not fired and denied his pension, O’Neill apparently had agreed to allow Pantaleo to retire so that he would keep his pension. Some 10 days ago, Chief of Department Terence Monahan set up a meeting with PBA president Pat Lynch. Pantaleo’s attorney, Stuart London, also attended and said the meeting was conducted “off campus” to finalize details.

“When Monahan sat down,” London said, “he immediately said Pantaleo’s pension was safe … We spoke about giving him a modified ID card, which would not allow him to obtain a firearm. It was clear to me they [Monahan and O’Neill] felt they would withstand the mayor’s response.” 

Devora Kaye, an NYPD spokeswoman, confirmed that Monahan met with Lynch and London to discuss Pantaleo’s pension. “Chief Monahan discussed this as one of the possible options that he thought was fair …,” she said.

Lynch said the deal was pulled the next day after O’Neill met with Mayor Bill de Blasio. Asked about Lynch’s claim of a deal before O’Neill met with the mayor, de Blasio said, “Don’t believe anything Pat Lynch says.”

Well, as far the Pantaleo deal is concerned, I believe Lynch is telling the truth. 

De Blasio? Well, he was on the campaign trail last week, touting O’Neill’s decision to fire Pantaleo on cable TV as “justice.”

As for O’Neill, he has cited Pantaleo’s 289 arrests, how police were called in July 2014 at the request of local merchants to a scene of repeated petty crime and drug activity in Staten Island, and how the officer had effected a lawful arrest of Garner, who resisted.

O’Neill acknowledged that Pantaleo’s use of an NYPD-banned chokehold was acceptable during part of the struggle when Garner resisted arrest. But O’Neill said Pantaleo could have adjusted his grip after both he and Garner fell on the ground, but Pantaleo did not. O’Neill added that if he were a cop in Pantaleo’s place, he “may have made similar mistakes.”

Yet in the end, O’Neill showed Pantaleo no mercy. Asked at his news conference why, in light of these extenuating circumstances, he would not allow Pantaleo to keep his pension, the usually forthright O’Neill did not answer.

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