Police officer fired for stopping white colleague’s chokehold wins lawsuit

Gustaf Kilander
·3 min read
Cariol Horne speaks during the WNY Women’s March on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020 in Buffalo, N.Y.  (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP)
Cariol Horne speaks during the WNY Women’s March on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020 in Buffalo, N.Y. (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP)

A former Buffalo police officer who said she was fired for stopping a white colleague's chokehold has won a lawsuit to get her pension.

Cariol Horne was fired in 2008 after an incident in 2006 in which she stopped a white officer's chokehold on a Black suspect in handcuffs.

The New York State Supreme Court vacated an earlier ruling that reinforced her firing, WIVB reported.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge Dennis Ward wrote: "The City of Buffalo has recognized the error and has acknowledged the need to undo an injustice from the past. The legal system can at the very least be the mechanism to help justice prevail, even if belatedly."

"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," Judge Ward added referring to two Black men who died after being apprehended by police and making it clear that they were unable to breathe.

Ms Horne stopped fellow officer Greg Kwiatkowski's chokehold on suspect Neal Mack in 2006. She told CBS last year: "Neal Mack looked like he was about to die. So had I not stepped in, he possibly could have. He was handcuffed and being choked."

When she was fired in 2008, she was only months away from being granted her pension.

Mr Kwiatkowski sued Ms Horne and her attorney for defamation. A judge found in 2011 that Ms Horne's lawyer had made eight statements that could be considered defamatory and false. One of the statements included the claim that Ms Horne "saved the life of a suspect who was already in handcuffs and was being choked out by officer Greg Kwiatkowski".

Mr Mack, however, continued to support the idea that Ms Horne saved his life. He told CBS in 2020: "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'."

He sued five officers who had a role in his arrest in 2012. A jury decided there was no wrongdoing. The jury ruled in the officers' favour 5-1, with the only Black member of the jury voting in favour of Mr Mack, according to The Buffalo News.

Mr Kwiatkowski was sentenced to four months in prison in 2018 after he used "unlawful and unreasonable force" against four Black teenagers in 2009. One of the actions he took was slamming their heads into a car.

Judge Ward said that such information was not presented during "the original determinations in this case by both the hearing officer and this court".

He added: "Likewise, the current societal view toward the use of chokeholds and physical force in effecting arrests along with the City of Buffalo's expression of specific disapproval of such force by legislative enactment, has altered the landscape."

Ms Horne is now eligible for back pay and benefits through 4 August 2010, CBS News reported.

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