NYPD files formal departmental charges against officers in Eric Garner case

Garner died after being held in 'banned' chokehold

By MARK MORALES, CNN
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Rev. Al Sharpton marches with family members of Eric Garner and hundreds of others during a demonstration against the death of Eric Garner after he was taken into police custody in Staten Island on Thursday on July 19, 2014 in New York City.

(CNN) - The New York police officer who choked Eric Garner in 2014 has been formally served with departmental charges, an NYPD spokesman said Saturday.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who wrapped his arm around Garner's neck before the man complained he couldn't breathe, was served with the charges Friday night, according to city officials.

Pantaleo is seen in video from the scene tackling Garner from behind using a department-banned chokehold. He now faces two separate charges -- for use of a chokehold and for restricting the man's breathing, said an NYPD official with knowledge of the investigation.

An asthmatic, Garner was later pronounced dead. His death, which became emblematic of long-standing tensions between police and minority communities, was ruled a homicide.

Pantaleo, who has remained on the NYPD payroll, faces punishment ranging from loss of vacation days to termination, officials said.

Stuart London, Pantaleo's attorney, declined comment Saturday. He said his client was "looking forward to being vindicated" after the NYPD confirmed Thursday that it was initiating the disciplinary process.

Another officer, Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, a supervisor and one of the first officers to respond, also faces departmental charges for alleged procedural infractions, city officials said. Her attorney also declined comment.

Pantaleo's case will be prosecuted by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the city agency tasked with oversight of the police department, officials said. The CCRB substantiated allegations of misconduct against Pantaleo, police officials said.

An NYPD official will lead the administrative case against Adonis.

The disciplinary hearings likely will take place in early 2019, according to an NYPD official. That will allow the officers' attorneys adequate time to prepare, said Lawrence Byrne, the deputy commissioner for legal matters.

Family wants officers held accountable

On Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of Garner's death, his mother, Gwen Carr, stood on the steps of City Hall and demanded action from authorities, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"The de Blasio administration should never have waited for four years," Carr said in a statement, adding that she wanted all the officers seen in the video to be disciplined -- not just Pantaleo and Adonis.

Garner died in 2014 after police attempted to arrest the 43-year-old father of six, who was allegedly selling cigarettes illegally in Staten Island.

Garner's sister, Ellisha Flagg, said the video was clear-cut and the officers should be fired.

"Eric lost his life. What gives him the right to keep his job?" Flagg, 42, said. "I'll be a little satisfied when someone is actually held accountable. It won't bring him back but at least we know we didn't let it go."

Police union calls for fair process

Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department released a statement saying it informed the NYPD in the spring that the department was to pursue disciplinary proceedings. City officials have denied the claim.

De Blasio, who said he was surprised by Tuesday's statement, asked NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill to speak directly to top DOJ officials.

"We wanted to hear it from a ranking official of DOJ," de Blasio said. "That was done in the last 24 hours. It was specifically confirmed. That makes it abundantly clear to all of us. It's time to move forward."

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the union that represents Pantaleo and other rank-and-file members, called for a fair and not political process.

"We hope that the NYPD's eagerness to start the disciplinary process does not mean the outcome has already been decided, without even the pretense of due process," said PBA President Patrick Lynch in a statement. "P.O. Pantaleo is entitled to a complete and impartial review of the facts. We are confident that he will be vindicated by such a review, unless the mayor and the NYPD leadership have already decided to prioritize politics over fairness."

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