Democrat presidential hopefuls found common ground in applauding the Monday firing of the NYPD cop blamed for Eric Garner’s chokehold death.
“Finally,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted minutes after NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill announced Officer Daniel Pantaleo had been booted from the force over his role in the July 2014 altercation outside a Staten Island bodega.
Bernie Sanders similarly welcomed Pantaleo’s axing, but said he only saw it as a first step.
“This is the right decision, but we are still a very long way from achieving justice for Eric Garner’s family and countless others who have lost loved ones to police violence,” the Vermont senator tweeted. “We must fundamentally transform our criminal justice system at every level.”
Julian Castro, who has struggled to stand out in the crowded Democratic 2020 field, also called for more action.
“Daniel Pantaleo’s name and this incident should be in a national database so that every police department knows his history and will not hire him,” the former federal housing secretary tweeted. “He should now be held accountable under the law.”
California Sen. Kamala Harris, who has come under fire for her record as a “tough on crime” prosecutor in San Francisco, chimed in: “This decision does not bring Eric Garner back to his family and accountability across our justice system should not take five years. We need reform now.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren offered a similar sentiment: “Daniel Pantaleo should have been fired a long time ago. And our criminal justice system needs big, structural change.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the early front-runner in the 24-candidate primary field, notably had not offered his take on Pantaleo’s dismissal as of Monday afternoon, and spokesmen for his campaign did not return requests for comment.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — who has faced criticism over the recent death of a black man at the hands of a police officer in his hometown — did not immediately react to Pantaleo’s sacking either.
Pantaleo’s firing closes the book on a painful chapter in NYPD history.
The now ex-cop put Garner in a banned chokehold after allegedly spotting him selling loose cigarettes outside a corner store in Staten Island on July 17, 2014. The altercation was caught on video, and Garner’s last words — “I can’t breathe” — became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Justice Department ultimately declined to criminally prosecute Pantaleo, even though a judge overseeing his department trial found he had been “untruthful” and “self-serving” in interviews with internal investigators.
Mayor de Blasio, who’s currently struggling to make the cut for the third Democratic presidential debate, has faced criticism from other 2020 candidates for not putting more pressure on the NYPD to fire Pantaleo sooner.
Contrary to many of his fellow White House wannabes, de Blasio said Monday that Pantaleo’s NYPD exit was a sign of “justice.”
“For a long time, people wondered if we would be left without justice,” he said during a news conference at City Hall. “Today, we have finally seen justice done.”
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