Daniel Pantaleo, who was fired in August for causing the death of Eric Gardner, has filed a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department in hopes of getting his job back.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill fired Pantaleo for using a banned choke on Gardner. O’Neill said Pantaleo broke the rules and could no longer serve as a New York City police officer.
On July 17, 2014, Pantaleo and several other officers confronted Gardner and tried to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes. Cellphone video footage captures Gardner saying, “I can’t breathe” as Pantaleo has him in a choke hold.
The incident became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
O’Neill said the incident was an irreversible tragedy and said both of the men were at fault that day. He said that Gardner shouldn’t have resisted arrest and that Pantaleo shouldn’t have readjusted his grip after forcing Gardner to the sidewalk.
“I can tell you that had I been in Officer Pantaleo’s situation, I may have made similar mistakes. And had I made those mistakes, I would have wished I had used the arrival of back-up officers to give the situation more time to make the arrest,” he said. “And I would have wished that I had released my grip before it became a chokehold.”
After Gardner’s death, the police department required all 36,000 officers to undergo three days of training, including classes focused on de-escalation.
A grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo in December 2014 and US Attorney General William Barr in July opted against filing civil rights charges on grounds of insufficient evidence.
Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said that his termination following an administrative trial was arbitrary and capricious. He has argued that Pantaleo used a reasonable amount of force and didn’t mean to hurt Gardner.
Rev. Al Sharpton criticized the lawsuit, saying that Pantaleo had a fair administrative trial that recommended his dismissal. “Pantaleo’s decision to seek his reinstatement is not only disrespectful to the Police Commissioner and NYPD, but also the Garner family,” Sharpton said in a statement. “He has shown no contrition or acknowledgment of his violent actions that ultimately killed Eric Garner.”