After five years of investigations and protests, New York City's police commissioner on Monday fired an officer involved in the 2014 chokehold death of an unarmed black man whose dying cries of "I can't breathe" fueled a national debate over race and police use of force. Police Commissioner James O'Neill announced at a midday news conference that he had fired Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, based on a disciplinary judge's recommendation to fire the officer for using a banned chokehold on Eric Garner; the medical examiner's office said a chokehold contributed to Garner's death. The AP reports O'Neill said it was clear that Pantaleo "can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer."
Garner's death was followed by years of protests and calls by black activists and liberal politicians for Pantaleo to lose his job. City officials had long insisted, though, they couldn't take action until criminal investigations were complete. A state grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in 2014. Federal authorities, however, kept a civil rights investigation open for five years before announcing last month they wouldn't bring charges. Pantaleo's lawyer has insisted the officer used a reasonable amount of force and didn't mean to hurt Garner. In a bystander's video, it appeared that Pantaleo initially tried to use two approved restraint tactics on Garner but ended up wrapping his arm around Garner's neck for about seven seconds as they struggled against a glass storefront window and fell to the sidewalk. (A judge called Pantaleo "untruthful.")