New York City brings internal charges against officer in chokehold death of Eric Garner
Protesters rally and speak out on the one year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner in New York, on July 17, 2015. Photo by Lucas Jackson for Reuters.

New York City began disciplinary proceedings on Thursday against the police officer who applied a fatal chokehold to Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, in 2014, the Civilian Complaint Review Board said.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo could face termination from the police force. His charging comes after the New York Police Department gave the U.S. Department of Justice an ultimatum earlier this week, saying it could no longer wait for a federal civil rights investigation to conclude.

On Thursday the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the city agency that acts as the prosecutor in police administrative trials, said the Justice Department had released its “hold” that put the disciplinary proceedings against Pantaleo on ice.

The police department said in its letter to the Justice Department on Monday that it would begin the disciplinary proceedings on Sept. 1 if federal investigators had not announced whether they would prosecute Pantaleo by then.

Cellphone video footage of Garner repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe!” to Pantaleo, whose arm is around his neck, helped focus national attention on police killings of unarmed black men and fueled the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement.

Police had approached Garner on a Staten Island sidewalk on July 17, 2014 for peddling loose cigarettes, which escalated into an argument before Pantaleo began trying to restrain Garner. The police department has long banned its officers from using chokeholds.

Garner’s family earlier this week welcomed the promise of action against Pantaleo, saying he should be fired.

Pantaleo’s labor union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, criticized the police department for what it said was a “rush” to a pre-determined conclusion and said Pantaleo would be vindicated.

The New York Police Department and U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Dan Grebler