NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thursday marked the beginning of an administrative trial process within the NYPD for the officer accused in the death of Eric Garner, a man police attempted to arrest for selling loose cigarettes.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is on desk duty, could still lose his job.
Family and friends walked into One Police Plaza for the first administrative hearing and for the first time faced the officer who held Garner in a chokehold the day he died.
Garner, who had asthma, could be heard gasping, “I can’t breathe.”
“It was mixed emotions. I felt sort of numb being in the same space with my son’s murderer,” said Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother.
This is different than a criminal trial. A state grand jury failed to return charges against the officer. At the federal level, charges could be returned until the statute of limitations expires in July.
Pantaleo is being prosecuted by the Civilian Complaint Review Board. An NYPD trial judge will hear both sides and make a recommendation to the police commissioner, who has the final say on any penalties.
“We can’t listen to the noise. Let us listen to the evidence. We are going to bring before us evidence that Officer Pantaleo did exactly what he was trained to do,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said.
Garner’s family said they want Pantaleo and every officer involved in Garner’s death to be fired.
“At this point in time, he basically needs to suffer for what he’s done because he’s able to live his life for his family, but Eric is not able to live his life for his family,” sister Alicia said.
Officer Pantaleo wore a dark suit and said nothing during the hearing. Both sides discussed the upcoming trial, with each saying they’ll need five days and present 13 witnesses.
Pantaleo’s lawyers said he’s charged with reckless use of a chokehold and intentional use of a chokehold. A judge denied a motion to drop one of the charges.
“Unfortunately, what we see in this process is that we’re having a trial in front of a kangaroo court,” Lynch said.
Both parties will be back in court Jan. 31 for an administrative hearing. The trial is slated to begin May 13.
A state grand jury on Staten Island chose not to indict Pantaleo after Garner’s death four years ago.