Aug. 2 (UPI) -- A New York City police judge said Friday an NYPD officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner five years ago should be removed from the force.
Garner died during a now-infamous arrest in 2014, after officers confronted him for illegally selling cigarettes outside a Staten Island store. The officers physically controlled Garner after he resisted arrest, and officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold. Garner ultimately suffocated. He told the officers, "I can't breathe," which later became a rallying cry among supporters and activists.
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill will make the final decision on whether Pantaleo will keep his job.
"Today's decision confirms what the Civilian Complaint Review Board always has maintained: Officer Daniel Pantaleo committed misconduct on July 17, 2014, and his actions caused the death of Eric Garner," Fred Davie, chairman of the New York Civilian Complaint Review Board, said in a statement. "The evidence the CCRB's prosecutors brought forth at trial was more than sufficient to prove that Pantaleo is unfit to serve.
"O'Neill must uphold this verdict and dismiss Pantaleo from the department, as was recommended by both the CCRB and the deputy commissioner of trials."
Many community members, elected officials and activists have called for Pantaleo's firing for five years -- and a heckler on the second night of the Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday shouted at Mayor Bill de Blasio to terminate the officer.
"To the protesters in the audience today: I heard you. I saw you. I thank you," De Blasio later tweeted. "This is what democracy looks like and no one said it was pretty."
The Justice Department decided two weeks ago not to file civil rights charges against Pantaleo.
"If it is allowed to stand, it will paralyze the NYPD for years to come," he said.