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5 Years After Eric Garner's Death, NYPD Officer Faces Administrative Trial


The disciplinary trial of New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo begins today. Pantaleo was implicated in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner. A Staten Island grand jury declined to criminally indict him, but the disciplinary trial could result in him being fired. From member station WNYC, Cindy Rodriguez has more. And just a note here - the story contains audio that some might find disturbing.

CINDY RODRIGUEZ, BYLINE: It's been almost five years since a video showed officer Daniel Pantaleo with his forearm wrapped around the neck of 43-year-old Eric Garner as he tried to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Yelling) Get down.

RODRIGUEZ: As other officers piled on top of Garner, the Staten Island man repeated, I can't breathe, before he died.


ERIC GARNER: I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe.

RODRIGUEZ: Garner's last words became the battle cry of protesters who marched in the streets. Gwen Carr, Garner's mother, has become a vocal activist and has grown frustrated by legal challenges that have threatened to delay the disciplinary trial even further.


GWEN CARR: We suffered the whole five years. This is not just a news story for us. This is our life.

RODRIGUEZ: Prosecutors charged Pantaleo with violating the NYPD Patrol Guide by using a banned chokehold and restricting Garner's breathing. But they'll need to prove the underlying criminal charges of attempted assault and strangulation. The bar is lower than it would be in a criminal court, and they don't have to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. Attorney Stuart London represents Pantaleo and says he plans to show his client used a maneuver approved by the NYPD.

STUART LONDON: We will call a force expert who was his instructor at the academy, detailing the seat belt method - which was approved by the police department - that my client was instructed on.

RODRIGUEZ: The officer's police union says Pantaleo's use of the seat belt maneuver means he put one arm under Garner's underarm and the other over his shoulder, not his neck. The trial is expected to last 10 days. At the end, a judge will write a report and make a recommendation to the police commissioner, who has the final say on whether to fire Pantaleo or not. Police reform activists complain the process lacks transparency because a controversial state law allows for the findings and the outcome to remain confidential.

For NPR News, I'm Cindy Rodriguez in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHUTTLE358'S "SCRAPBOOK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cindy Rodriguez