Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City police officer accused in the 2014 death of Eric Garner that sparked nationwide outrage, has been fired, Commissioner James O’Neill announced Monday afternoon.
O’Neill, who said it was “an extremely difficult decision,” said he made his final call in the “last couple of days.”
“This was not an easy decision,” the commissioner told reporters.
Pantaleo had been suspended since Aug. 2, after a judge recommended he should be terminated.
“I agree, he can no longer effectively serve as a new york city police officer,” O’Neill said.
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The decision by NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado came amid a ruling by the U.S. Department of Justice last month to not bring civil rights charges against Pantaleo, whose case has become a national story and even seeped into the Democratic presidential debates.
Garner, who was black, died during a 2014 arrest in Staten Island for the sale of untaxed cigarettes when he refused to be handcuffed by several officers. Prosecutors in the case argued that Pantaleo, 33, used a banned chokehold to take Garner down to the ground but his attorney argued that he used an approved “seat belt” technique to subdue the suspect.
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In a cell phone video taken by a bystander, Garner could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” 11 times before falling unconscious. That phrase has since become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last month the Justice Department ruled against the Civil Rights Division’s recommendation that charges be brought against Pantaleo despite officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, arguing the government’s burden of proof could not be met.
A grand jury also declined to indict Pantaleo on criminal charges in 2014.
Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj the Associated Press contributed to this report.