Daniel Pantaleo, NYPD officer involved in Garner chokehold death, suspended after termination recommendation

NEW YORK (WABC) -- An NYPD trial judge recommended Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired over his role in the 2014 death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man whose dying cries of "I can't breathe" fueled a national debate over policing, race and the use of force.

In the non-binding verdict, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado said Pantaleo is guilty of using a chokehold but not guilty of aggravated assault nor obstructing breathing.

Her verdict is merely a disciplinary recommendation to NYPD Police Commissioner James O'Neill, with whom the ultimate decision rests.

Pantaleo has been suspended, as of Friday, the NYPD said, in keeping with the longstanding practice when a civil servant is recommended to be fired.

A statement released by Deputy Commissioner Public Information Phillip Walzak also made clear that, despite the wishes of the Garner family, O'Neill will abide by the guidelines and not issue his final determination until later this month.

Meanwhile, Eric Garner's family and activists gathered at the National Action Network in Harlem and called for O'Neill to act on the recommendation.

"Commissioner O'Neill, fire Pantaleo," Garner's daughter Emerald said at the news conference.

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Eric Garner's daughter speaks after a judge recommended firing the officer involved in his death.



"The commissioner needs to immediately, unequivocally accept the recommendation of the judge and do it right away," Rev. Al Sharpton added.

Sharpton said the recommendation is not justice for the Garner family, but it is good for the city and the citizens of New York City.

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Sharpton spoke after a judge recommended firing the officer accused of using a chokehold in Eric Garner's death



Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother, issued a written statement that said, in part, "It brings me some relief to learn that Judge Maldonado has recommended that Pantaleo be fired -- but the recommendation is long overdue."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he hoped the recommendation will lead to a sense of closure.

This comes days after he was targeted with hecklers shouting "Fire Pantaleo" at the second night of the Democratic presidential debates in Detroit

"Today we finally saw a step towards justice and accountability. We saw a process that was actually fair and impartial. And I hope that this will now bring the Garner family a sense of closure and the beginning of some peace," he said.

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de Blasio said he hoped the recomendation will lead to a sense of closure.



De Blasio is declined to take the opportunity to offer his opinion on whether Officer Pantaleo should be fired, citing the ongoing legal process.

He also declined to say if the judge's decision was just, but said the process was fair.

The mayor has not seen the 47-page report, nor has he spoken to the police commissioner.

"That's because I respect this process," he said.

The Police Benevolent Association, on the other hand, made it clear that it is unhappy with the judge's verdict.

"This decision is pure political insanity. If it is allowed to stand, it will paralyze the NYPD for years to come," PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement. Later at a news conference, Lynch called the recommendation "reckless."

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PBA President Patrick Lynch calls the recommendation "reckless"



Maldonado is forwarding her recommendation about Pantaleo's fate to his defense attorney and the civilian complaint review board, the body that oversees complaints against officers Friday. She also oversaw Pantaleo's departmental trial during the spring.

The written verdict is forwarded to the Criminal Complaint Review Board, which prosecuted his case, and Pantaleo's PBA attorney, per NYPD rules.

Both sides will have two weeks to submit responses to O'Neill, who will then determine Pantaleo's future with the NYPD. A final outcome is not expected until the middle of August.

Before his suspension, Pantaleo was on desk duty these last five years as he was investigated for the apparent chokehold that contributed to Garner's death in custody on Staten Island.

He has rejected any notion he violated policy or did anything wrong when he arrested Garner for selling loose cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island. His lawyer said he will appeal to state court if Pantaleo is fired.

Garner's death came at a time of a growing public outcry over police killings of unarmed black men that sparked the national Black Lives Matter movement. Just weeks later, protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

When a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo on state charges in December 2014, demonstrations flared in New York and several other cities.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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