Eric Garner: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Says His Death Must Be Treated 'With Gravity' as Hearing Is Decided: 'His Life Was Not Disposable'

As the departmental hearing into an NYPD officer's alleged use of a chokehold during the 2014 arrest of Eric Garner, which ended with Garner's death, came to a close on Thursday, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for his death to be "treated with the gravity that human life deserves."

"Five years after Eric Garner's death, the disciplinary trial regarding that day is coming to an end," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

"Garner's death should be treated with the gravity that human life deserves. His life was not disposable," she said, adding the hashtag "#blacklivesmatter."

Garner, who was 43, died after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, now 33, tried to arrest him for selling cigarettes illegally on Staten Island on July 17, 2014.

Video of the incident captured on multiple mobile phones, showed Garner, who was black, repeatedly saying: "I can't breathe" as Pantaleo, a white police officer, held him down on the ground in what many have alleged is a clear chokehold, a move banned by the NYPD.

Pantaleo's lawyer has argued that the officer did not use a chokehold, but used a takedown move taught by the department. The officer's defense team has maintained that Garner died of heart failure, not as a result of Pantaleo's actions.

Garner's death, as well as the refusal of a grand jury to indict Pantaleo over the incident, sparked national outrage, fuelling the early flames of the Black Lives Matter movement.

While Pantaleo was taken off active duty following the incident, he has remained on the NYPD's payroll since.

In July 2018, four years after Garner's death, the NYPD's Civilian Complaint Review Board announced that it would be conducting a departmental hearing into the incident since federal prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York had not yet decided whether they would lay charges against Pantaleo.

While the Attorney's Office has until the fifth anniversary of Garner's death, July 17, to decide whether they will pursue charges before the statute of limitations on the case expires, the NYPD departmental hearing began on May 13, ending on Thursday.

Still, the culmination of the hearing could be months away, with Deputy Commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado having 90 days to determine whether Pantaleo should face disciplinary action over the incident, according to ABC.

Based on what Maldonado decides, Pantaleo could face losing his job–or losing vacation days.

The ultimate decision will be left to NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill or New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is also a 2020 presidential candidate.

For its part, the Civilian Complaint Review Board has recommended that Pantaleo be terminated and stripped of his pension.

Black Lives Matter
Protesters stand in Foley Square in New York City on December 4, 2014 during a demonstration after the death of Eric Garner. A disciplinary hearing surrounding Garner's death has ended. Getty/TIMOTHY A. CLARY