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The Big Cave
August 26, 2019
No matter how you slice, dice, or splice it, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that NYPD Commissioner Jim O’Neill caved when he fired police officer Daniel Pantaleo for the 2014 “chokehold” death of Eric Garner.
Despite threats of violence from a cadre of activists and Garner’s family if Pantaleo was not fired and allowed to keep his pension, O’Neill had apparently agreed to allow Pantaleo to retire and save his pension. Some 10 days ago, Chief of Department Terence Monahan initiated a 30-minute meeting with PBA president Pat Lynch and Pantaleo’s attorney Stuart London at what London called “an off-campus” site to finalize details and prepare Pantaleo’s retirement paperwork.
“When Monahan sat down,” said London, “he immediately said Pantaleo’s pension was safe. He said, ‘He [Pantaleo] is going to get his pension.’ We spoke about giving him a modified I.D. card, which would not allow him to carry a firearm. It was clear to me they [Monahan and O’Neill] felt they would withstand the mayor’s response.”
NYPD spokeswoman Devora Kaye confirmed that Monahan had met with Lynch and London to discuss Pantaleo’s pension. “Chief Monahan discussed this as one of the possible options that he thought was fair…,” she said.
Lynch said the deal was pulled the next day after O’Neill met with de Blasio.
Well, let’s think about that. At least as far as the Monahan-Pantaleo deal was concerned, Lynch was telling the truth.
So what does that tell you about de Blasio?
Yet again, as he had since O’Neill’s first week in office nearly three years ago, Mayor de Blasio sandbagged his commissioner. He then took off again on his quixotic presidential journey, traveling to Iowa, Illinois, and New Hampshire, and touting, in interviews on national television, what he said was O’Neill’s decision — not his — to fire Pantaleo. The mayor labeled this “justice.”
As for O’Neill, one sensed him struggling with his conscience at his news conference last week when he announced Pantaleo’s firing. His voice at times quavering, he cited Pantaleo’s 289 arrests and 14 department medals; how Pantaleo had been called, at the request of local merchants, to a place of repeated petty crime and drug activity; and how he had effected a lawful arrest of Garner, who refused to provide I.D., and then resisted arrest.
O’Neill acknowledged that Pantaleo’s use of the department-banned chokehold was acceptable during part of his struggle with the 350-pound Garner. However, O’Neill said that Pantaleo could have later adjusted his grip when he and Garner fell to the ground but that Pantaleo did not. He added that, if he were a cop in Pantaleo’s place, he “may have made similar mistakes.”
Yet in the end, O’Neill showed Pantaleo no mercy.
Asked by this reporter why, in light of these extenuating circumstances, he would refuse Pantaleo his pension, the normally forthright O’Neill, did not answer.
Copyright © 2019 Leonard Levitt