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  • The white police officer Daniel Pantaleo who killed Eric Garner was fired Monday.

    The white police officer Daniel Pantaleo who killed Eric Garner was fired Monday. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 August 2019

Eric Garner's repeated dying cries of "I can't breathe," widely viewed on social media, became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The white New York Police Department officer who used a deadly chokehold on Eric Garner while trying to arrest him in 2014, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, was fired Monday, Commissioner James O'Neill said.

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"It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York police officer," he said.

The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, was suspended earlier this month after a departmental judge ruled that the officer should be fired. He had previously been on desk duty since he was seen in widely viewed cellphone videos using a banned chokehold on Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk during an attempted arrest.

Garner's repeated dying cries of "I can't breathe," widely viewed on social media, became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, which protests the institutional racism against Black people across the United States.

His death and the slow-moving investigations that followed have generated some of the harshest criticisms of Mayor Bill de Blasio during his tenure and have spilled over into his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The case tested the mayor's relationships with both civil rights activists, who have long complained that the city's Black and Latinx residents are harassed by police, and the rank-and-file police officers who work for him, some of whom say they have been made scapegoats by his office.

Firing Pantaleo was one of the few punishments left available. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in 2014 on criminal charges, and federal prosecutors said last month they would not bring charges because there was insufficient evidence.

In 2015, New York City paid a US$5.9 million settlement to Garner's family to avoid a civil lawsuit.

While Pantaleo was dismissed, two other police officers who led a Black man by a rope in Texas this month would not face criminal charges as authorities said Sunday. 

Donald Neely, 43, a mentally ill person has often slept on streets. He was arrested on Aug. 3 by the Texas Rangers for allegedly trespassing. The mounted rangers tied him to a rope and dragged him as police vehicles were not available. 

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The incident captured by a civilian drew outrage against the rangers and the image was compared to slavery. However, no charges were filed against the officers. 

“The Texas Rangers conducted an inquiry into this matter, which has since been completed,” the public safety agency said in a statement. “The Rangers subsequently conferred with the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, which determined that there was nothing that warranted a criminal investigation.”

Vernon L. Hale III, Galveston’s police chief said that the officers showed “poor judgment” and could have waited for a police vehicle but he defended them saying that they used a technique taught to them during training. 

“Regardless of the Texas Rangers’ findings, the community behind Mr. Donald Neely are demanding transparency and accountability,” said Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Mr. Neely’s family. 

“The only way to rebuild trust after this instance of bad policing is to be transparent and send a clear message that Mr. Neely was deserving of respect, just as any other American citizen.”

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