Feb. 2, 2017 5:30 am    

 

Before Eric Garner’s fatal chokehold, NYPD officer had history of complaints, leaked documents reveal

Daniel Pantaleo had 14 allegations from seven complaint cases before Garner died in 2014.

By NIKKI M. MASCALI

A photograph of Eric Garner, who was killed in Staten Island in 2014 by an NYPD officer, is seen on a wall in this file photo. Photo: File.

The NYPD officer who used a department-banned chokehold during the 2014 arrest that resulted in Eric Garner’s death had a history of prior complaints, according to leaked documents obtained by ThinkProgress. 

Daniel Pantaleo had seven disciplinary complaints and 14 allegations before the fatal Eric Garner case in Staten Island on July 17, 2014, the records indicate. They were sent anonymously to ThinkProgress by a source who said claimed to have worked at the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an outside organization that receives and investigates complaints about NYPD officers. 

Pantaleo’s disciplinary records are currently part of a court case between the CCRB and the Legal Aid Society. Such records were made public by the CCRB in the past, but that practice stopped in September 2014.

Four city lawyers told the publication that Pantaleo’s alleged records do match the look of CCRB disciplinary documents, but the review board would not comment on their authenticity. The review board did confirm one of the case numbers on the report was real and had been closed, but did not disclose the name of the officer involved. 

The earliest complaint in Pantaleo's alleged documents was an abuse allegation from April 2009 in which he refused to obtain medical treatment for a suspect. The CCRB ruled the allegation “unsubstantiated.”

Complaints in 2011, 2012 and 2013 followed and ranged from substantiated, or credible, abuses during vehicle searches and stops to an unsubstantiated complaint about the officer using physical force in 2013.

Four abuse incidents from a vehicle stop and search in 2011, and a 2012 frisk, search of a person and stop resulted in charges, meaning the CCRB “recommended the harshest category of discipline possible,” ThinkProgress reported. 

The vehicle abuses resulted in the officer, believed to be Panteleo, receiving “instruction,” or training that is the lowest level of departmental discipline. The stop charge was dismissed after the Administrative Prosecution Unit found the officer not guilty, while the frisk charge stood. The officer forfeited two vacation days as a result of the violation. 

Pantaleo was put on been on desk duty following Garner’s death. 

“Someone should have taken a look at his record a long time ago,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told the New York Daily News. “If they had done that maybe my son would still be alive.”

Garner, 43, was approached by Pantaleo and other officers for selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk. While attempting to arrest him, Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold for nearly 20 seconds.

The confrontation was famously caught on video, with Garner repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe” before losing consciousness.

His cause of death was determined to be a combination of a chokehold, chest compression and poor health and was ruled a homicide. His death sparked multiple protests across the country, and "I can't breathe" became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.