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Lawyer: Officer in Eric Garner case wants to keep his job

June 6, 2019

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York Police Department patrolman accused of using a chokehold in the 2014 death of Eric Garner wants to keep his job because “it’s in his blood,” his lawyer said Thursday.

After a disciplinary hearing where police-oversight prosecutors argued Officer Daniel Pantaleo should be fired, attorney Stuart London told reporters that his client hopes to be cleared of administrative charges, so he can stay on the force.

Pataleo “was a hard-working officer,” London said outside NYPD headquarters in lower Manhattan. “It’s in his blood. He’d love to continue.”

The 43-year-old Garner died during an arrest on Staten Island on July 17, 2014. Pantaleo is seen in a widely watched cell phone video putting Garner in an apparent chokehold that’s banned by the NYPD, and the medical examiner later found that it contributed to his death by asphyxiation.

The outrage that followed made Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Pantaleo’s lawyer and a police union have argued that he used a takedown move taught by the department — not a chokehold — and that a “morbidly obese” Garner actually died of heart failure. In an interview with internal affairs investigators that was introduced into evidence at Pataleo’s hearing, the officer said that he was only trying to bring Garner to the ground because he resisted arrest for illegally selling individual cigarettes and was not applying pressure to his neck as they both went down.

Garner’s family received $5.9 million from the city in 2015 to settle a wrongful death claim.

In NYPD disciplinary cases, it can take up to three months before an administrative judge recommends a punishment to the police commissioner, who has final say, London said. But he predicted that Pataleo’s fate would be determined next month around the five-year anniversary of Garner’s death.

That date is significant because it also would be the statute-of-limitations deadline for federal authorities to decide whether to charge Pantaleo with civil rights violations in the death — something that Garner’s family and police reform advocates have demanded.

Federal authorities have been silent about where they are on the decision.

Pataleo has been on restricted duty since Garner’s death but is collecting his full salary as his case plays out.

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