Buffalo officials ask state to probe firing of Black officer who stopped white colleague's chokehold

Phil McCausland and Allan Smith

The city council in Buffalo, New York, voted this week to call on State Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the 2008 firing of Black officer Cariol Horne, who stopped a white colleague from choking a suspect while making an arrest.

The incident occurred in 2006, and Horne was fired two years later because the Buffalo Police Department claimed Horne had put her fellow officers at risk, including the white officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, whom she stopped after he put the suspect in a chokehold.

Image: Cariol Holloman-Horne (Cariol Holloman-Horne / via Facebook)

Buffalo is now asking the state to look into the reasons why Horne was fired.

"Now with so much attention being on the present and what some officers have done negatively, it is very difficult for some people to move forward if we have not repaired the past," Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen told local NBC News affiliate WGRZ.

The New York Attorney General’s office declined to comment on Buffalo’s request. The Buffalo Police Department and Horne could not be immediately reached to address the case.

Horne was a 19-year veteran when she was fired in 2008, and she was one year short of receiving her pension. She has since become an activist who speaks on police brutality and has attempted to pass a law in New York that would protect officers who attempt to stop acts of excessive force by their fellow officers.

“I always say that if I had to do it again, I would,” Horne told The Washington Post on Friday.

Kwiatkowski, the officer that Horne stopped in 2006, was arrested and sentenced to four months in prison for use of excessive force against four Black teenagers 10 years after Horne was fired.

The teenagers were accused of shooting BB guns while driving around their neighborhood, but they were compliant with the arresting officers when Kwaitkowski appeared at the scene. He admitted to “forcibly pushing each of the suspects heads and upper torsos into the vehicle around which they were being detained,” according to the Department of Justice.

The Buffalo Police Department has faced widespread criticism since June 4, when a video of officers in riot gear shoving protester Martin Gugino, 75, to the ground went viral. Gugino can be seen laying motionless and bleeding from the ears. When one officer attempts to help him, another stops him and appears to tell him to keep moving.

Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, the officers accused of pushing Gugino to the ground, were charged Tuesday with second-degree assault. Gugino’s attorney said the elderly man suffered a brain injury.

"As heartbreaking as it is, his brain is injured and he is well aware of that now," said lawyer Kelly V. Zarcone.

A total of 57 Buffalo police officers resigned from the department’s Emergency Response Team out of solidarity with McCabe and Torgalski, who remain suspended from duty.

When Horne was fired, however, none of her fellow officers stood by her.

If police “are going to back out when you have an officer stop police brutality, and they step up when you have officers knocking over 75-year-old men, then we have a big problem in Buffalo, New York,” she told The Washington Post.