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New York – The New York City police officer accused of using a banned chokehold in the July 2014 death of Eric Garner is being made a scapegoat in a politically charged atmosphere, a defense lawyer said on Monday.

Video evidence shows Officer Daniel Pantaleo used an approved technique for restraining Garner, attorney Stuart London said at the officer’s disciplinary hearing, adding that the officer feared for his life when he felt Garner was trying to push him toward a plate glass window.

Garner was the unarmed black man whose pleas of “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry against police brutality.

However, London said, it’s a misconception that the phrase was uttered when the officer’s hands were around Garner’s neck. It happened, he said, when officers were trying to handcuff Garner.

“We know he wasn’t choked out because he is speaking,” London said.

Emergency medical technicians casually strolled up to the scene without oxygen or other measures that could have helped Garner, who was so medically fragile that even a bear hug might have led to the same consequences, the lawyer said.

“The only one that did their job that day, I will submit, is Officer Pantaleo,” London said.

Pantaleo could face penalties ranging from the loss of vacation days to firing if he is found to have violated department rules. He denies wrongdoing.

A ruling last week requires that the police watchdog agency bringing the case prove not only that Pantaleo violated department rules, but also that his actions fit the criteria for criminal charges. Pantaleo does not face criminal charges.

He has been on desk duty since Garner’s death.

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