Freshly leaked documents show that Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who killed Eric Garner in July 2014, had a "chronic history of complaints" making him "among the worst on the force" in the three years leading up to Garner's death.
The new documents — leaked to ThinkProgress, who published them late on Tuesday — show that in the years leading up to the July 2014 killing of Garner, the New York City Civilian Complaints Review Board had received 21 complaints and allegations about Pantaleo, four of which they substantiated, recommending the officer receive the harshest possible discipline.
That number of complaints about an individual officer is rare — only 5 percent of New York's police officers have received eight or more complaints, and only 2 percent have had two or more complaints substantiated, according to the ThinkProgress report.
"Regardless of the outcome, if you get three complaints in a year, you're supposed to be on performance monitoring," said Jonathan Moore, a civil-rights attorney who represented Garner's family. "He got three in the course of two months in 2012."
Perhaps most disturbingly, one of the four substantiated allegations was for an "abusive stop and frisk" just two years before Pantaleo killed Garner with an illegal chokehold during another "stop and frisk".
In each of the substantiated allegations, the civilian review board's recommendations for sanction were ignored, with the police department ordering much weaker sanctions.
"Imagine that. Here's the disposition of a substantiated charge for making a bad vehicle search and a bad vehicle stop, and the remedy is instruction," Moore told ThinkProgress. "What happened on July 17 (2014) with Eric Garner was a bad stop and frisk."
Garner's death and the impunity of the white police officer who killed yet another unarmed Black man — New York state attorneys declined to press charges despite the video evidence of Pantaleo's illegal use of force — led to thousands of demonstrations across the nation as people took the streets chanting Garner's dying words, "I can't breathe."
Eric Garner's family has been seeking Pantaleo's disciplinary record for years, but have been met with continued stonewalling by both New York City and its police department.
The records are also the focus of an ongoing lawsuit by the Legal Aid Society of New York against the police department for greater transparency in the complaints process.
ThinkProgress say they received the records by someone claiming to work for the civilian complaints review board. While both the review board and the police department refused to comment on the documents, people familiar with the independent body told ThinkProgress the documents appear authentic.
Despite the city settling with Garner's family for US$5.9 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, Pantaleo continues to work for the NYPD and received a raise in 2016.
The NYPD claims it cannot take any disciplinary actions against Pantaleo until the U.S. Justice Department completes its own criminal investigation into Garner's killing.
So far the only person connected to Garner's convicted of any crime is Ramsey Ortega, a friend of Garner's who filmed the incident which many see as playing a key role in the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The day the city announced its financial settlement with Eric Garner's family, Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, told reporters, "Don't congratulate us. This is not a victory. Victory will come when we get justice."