Ex-Buffalo officer fired for reporting chokehold to receive pension after lawsuit win
“While the Eric Garners and the George Floyds of the world never had a chance for a “do-over”, at least here the correction can be done,” a judge ruled
Former Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne was fired in 2006 after her attempt to stop a colleague from choking a suspect, and now after winning a lawsuit, she will receive her full pension.
WIVB 4 reported the State Supreme Court vacated a previous ruling that sided with her being fired. Judge Dennis Ward issued the ruling on Tuesday and cited recent events in his decision. According to the outlet, the judge wrote “While the Eric Garners and the George Floyds of the world never had a chance for a “do-over,” at least here the correction can be done.”
In 2020, Horne made headlines after she doubled down on her actions, even though they resulted in her termination. theGrio reported the 19-year police veteran got involved after she witnessed an officer choking Neal Mack during an arrest being made in November 2006. She was months short of reaching two decades with the force which would have granted her full pension.
Horne believed not qualifying for her pension was retaliation.
“So if you cross that thin blue line, then you get ostracized and treated really badly, I didn’t want that to happen to anyone else,” Horne said. “So, I lost my pension, Neal Mack didn’t lose his life, so Neal Mack still lives to this day because I did intervene.”
Buffalo Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen said the current climate made the resolution more likely to garner support and reinstate Horne’s pension. In the wake of Floyd’s death, there have been global protests against police brutality.
“We now have a totally different Attorney General, we have a totally different climate and atmosphere and lens right now, across this world, as it deals with policing in the United States,” said Pridgen at the time. “So I think it’s an opportune time to look back at this case and to see were there civil rights violations so she can be made whole.”
During a 2020 interview with CBS This Morning, Horne shared her reason for stopping Officer Greg Kwiatkowski, CBS News reported.
“Neal Mack looked like he was about to die,” she remarked. “So had I not stepped in, he possibly could have. He was handcuffed and being choked.”
Mack himself added his version of the story in conversation with CBS This Morning according to the report.
“He was choking me. I was handcuffed. Cariol Horne said, ‘You killing him, Greg,’ and she reached over and tried to grab his hand around my neck,'” Mack remembered.
Since the violent arrest of Mack in 2008, Kwiatkowski has been reprimanded for other on-duty actions. According to CBS News in 2018, he was sentenced to four months in federal prison for a 2009 incident in which he used “unlawful and unreasonable force” against four black teenagers. In Mack’s arrest, a jury found no wrongdoing by Buffalo police.
The Buffalo News reported in 2012, Mack and one of his sons, Wesley, who also arrested that day aimed for $18 million in damages. The jury, made up of five whites and one black, voted, 5-1, in favor of the police officers over Mack. The one Black juror, a woman, voted against law enforcement according to the news outlet.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Anthony L. Pendergrass, Mack’s attorney, at the time. “She agreed Neal Mack was assaulted, falsely arrested, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted.”
He continued, “It boggles the mind the other jurors didn’t reach that conclusion.”
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