Five years after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was accused of killing Eric Garner by using a prohibited chokehold to restrain him, he was fired from the department. But the story continues as Pantaleo filed a wrongful termination lawsuit Wednesday, according to multiple reports.
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice dropped charges against Pantaleo, but an internal disciplinary trial found him guilty of using a chokehold — a restraining move prohibited in police policy. In August, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado — who found Pantaleo guilty in the disciplinary trial — recommended Police Commissioner James O’Neill fire Pantaleo. Later that month, he heeded her advice.
Though the disciplinary trial found Pantaleo’s use of the chokehold to be reckless, it could not prove it was the cause of Garner’s death, despite the medical examiner’s report saying he died of strangulation and her testimony saying the chokehold triggered an asthma attack that killed Garner. However, later in the hearing, St. Louis chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham offered an alternative cause of death: Garner’s own health issues.
Pantaleo filed the suit in Manhattan civil court on Wednesday. His attorney, Stuart London, told the New York Post that his termination was “arbitrary and capricious.” The lawsuit names the city, the NYPD and O’Neill, according to the Post.
“We will have many arguments, not the least of which will be the ridiculousness of the reckless assault convictions … in which all of his contacts with Mr. Garner were appropriate and taught in the academy,” Stuart London, Pantaleo’s attorney, told CNN on Wednesday.
London said Pantaleo did not place pressure on Garner’s neck, and he likely died from another condition. He was overweight and had other health conditions that the defense blamed for his death.
“Had Mr. Garner not resisted and not had such a compromised health situation, the result may have been very different,” London told CNN.
When Pantaleo was fired in August, Garner’s family, who had been rallying on his behalf since the incident, said though it did not feel like justice, it brought them some peace.
“It somewhat puts my family at ease, because although it took five years, it’s like, you know, it should have happened a long time ago, but we’re grateful that it’s happened now, that finally, someone sees what we see,” Emerald Garner, Eric Garner’s daughter, said on DemocracyNow! in the wake of Pantaleo’s firing.
Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network criticized Pantaleo’s decision to fight his firing.
“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.”