Yahoo.com, By Camille Caldera-USA TODAY, Posted August 1st 2019
Amidst a conversation about criminal justice during the Democratic debate, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro asked Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio why Officer Daniel Pantaleo – the officer involved in the death of Eric Garner – is still on the city’s police force.
Earlier in the evening, during opening statements from de Blasio and Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, protestors heckled “Fire Pantaleo!”
Moderator Jake Tapper re-directed the question to de Blasio.
“I know the Garner family,” de Blasio said. “They have gone through extraordinary pain, and they are waiting for justice and are going to get justice. There’s finally going to be justice, I have confidence in that, in the next thirty days in New York.”
“You know why? Because for the first time, we are not waiting on the federal Justice Department, which told the city of New York that we could not proceed because the Justice Department was pursuing their prosecution, and years went by, and a lot of pain accrued,” he said.
Federal prosecutors announced earlier this month that they would not file charges against Pantaleo, who was accused of putting Garner in a chokehold in 2014 and ignoring his cries of “I can’t breathe” while arresting him for selling single cigarettes outside a store in Staten Island. The video of the encounter became a social media phenomenon.
“In the meantime, what I’m working is making sure, and I have for five years, there will never be another tragedy, there will never be another Eric Garner because we are changing fundamentally how we police,” he said.
Tapper tried to move to another candidate, but de Blasio asked to make one last point, and targeted Vice President Joe Biden.
“For two and half of those years, Mr. Vice President, tell us what did you do to try and spur on the Justice Department to act in the Garner case?”
Biden answered by touting the administration’s release of 38,000 people from federal prison and their policies on the rules of police engagement, including body cameras.
Lemon then asked New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand if she thought de Blasio’s answer to Castro’s question was sufficient.
“No, he should be fired. He should be fired now,” Gillibrand said to thundering applause.
“I sat down with Eric Garner’s mother, and I can tell you, when you’ve lost your son, when he begged for breath, when you know because you have a video, when you know he said I can’t breathe over and over again, when you know he used an illegal chokehold, that person should be fired,” she said. “If I was the mayor I’d fire him, but as president, I would make sure that we had a full investigation, that the report would be made public, and if I wasn’t satisfied, we would have a consent decree.”
Earlier today, hours before de Blasio took the debate stage, Luis Sepulveda, a Democratic assemblyman from the Bronx said he believed that de Blasio would have fired Pantaleo if he could, echoing de Blasio’s words on the stage.
“I have no doubt that if due process permitted an immediate firing, I believe the mayor would have fired him immediately,” Sepulveda told The New York Post. “But unfortunately, these are things he cannot do, legally.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Democratic debates: Bill de Blasio asked about Eric Garner’s death