Garner died in Staten Island in 2014 after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a banned chokehold. Garner’s death galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement, which adopted the man’s dying words, “I can’t breathe,” as a rallying cry.
The NYPD announced last week ― more than five years after Garner’s death ― that it had fired Pantaleo and reprimanded his supervisor, Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, for her role in the deadly incident. Adonis, who pleaded guilty to multiple departmental charges of “failure to supervise,” will keep her job, the NYPD said, but loses 20 of her vacation days.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said she was furious that Adonis had only received a slap on the wrist and that no other officers had been punished for wrongdoing even though more than a dozen of them had been involved in her son’s arrest.
“I am outraged and disgusted by how the de Blasio administration and the NYPD continue to show that they don’t care about the murder of my son or black lives,” Carr said in a statement.
Asked during the CNN town hall about Garner’s death and the city’s handling of the case, de Blasio said the man “should not have died” and that “there can never be another Eric Garner in this city or any place else in this country.”
“What we learned immediately after the tragedy of Eric Garner was we had to do pretty much everything differently,” de Blasio said, stressing a need for federal leadership that will mandate “de-escalation training, implicit bias training” and body cameras for “every police officer in America.”
“That’s how we end the tragedies,” the mayor said.
He went on to blame the federal government for the protracted process that led to Pantaleo’s firing.
“The United States Department of Justice failed here miserably,” de Blasio said.
The DOJ went “five years without even deciding they were going to act and telling the city of New York not to act,” he continued. “I think we need a law in this country — federal law — that says in these dynamics, there has to be a mandate that the Justice Department must act. It could be one year, two years, whatever standard we set, they must make a decision, they must act.”
Moments later, a woman in the audience ― identified by New York Daily News as a member of the protest group Justice League NYC ― shouted at the mayor.
“What about Lieutenant [Christopher] Bannon? What about Officer [Mark] Ramos? ... What about other officers?” she yelled, referring to officers also on the scene of Garner’s arrest.
De Blasio didn’t look in the direction of the woman or acknowledge her questions.
“Please be respectful,” moderator Ana Cabrera told the protester. “We have more audience questions to get to.”
The Daily News said the woman was then escorted out of the studio.
He later vowed that Garner’s family would “get justice ... I have confidence in that.”
De Blasio has said in the past that he doesn’t have the legal authority to fire Pantaleo ― but he’s also been criticized for repeatedly failing to take action in other ways, including delaying the launch of formal disciplinary proceedings against the cop.
Following the officer’s firing last week, a spokeswoman for the mayor said people were “being held accountable and there is finally some measure of justice” in the Garner case.
“We hope that this brings the Garner family some small measure of peace,” the statement said.
But Garner’s mom said the disciplinary actions had been woefully inadequate.
“It’s disgraceful that they waited more than five years, until after Pantaleo was fired, to cut [Adonis] a deal so that all she’s facing is losing some vacation days and they want us to accept these crumbs as if there is some justice,” Carr said.
“By refusing to schedule a disciplinary trial for Adonis, de Blasio and the NYPD are actively participating in an ongoing cover-up because they don’t want the public to know how deep, how wide and how high the wrongdoing in this case went,” she added.