State Watch

Buffalo officials ask state to re-examine 2008 firing of black police officer who stopped white officer's chokehold

Buffalo, N.Y., city council members on Tuesday voted to reopen the case of a police officer fired in 2008 after she intervened to prevent another officer from applying a chokehold on a suspect.

The resolution approved by the Buffalo City Council asks state Attorney General Letitia James (D) to review the case.

"In light of recent events, I think that seven, eight weeks, nearly two months, is far too long to wait for answers from the administration of the Buffalo Police Department," Buffalo Common Council member Chris Scanlon said, according to WBFO. Scanlon referenced the time until the next Police Oversight Committee meeting.

"The public is demanding reform. They are demanding answers. And I believe during these times we have to shoulder that responsibility, ask those tough questions of that administration and assist in facilitating change," Scanlon said.

In 2006, Cariol Horne, who is black, jumped on white officer Gregory Kwiatkowski's back to prevent him from harming David Mack, the black suspect he had in the hold.

Horne, a 19-year veteran of the force, was fired in 2008 over her actions, losing her pension just a year before she would have been eligible. The Police Department's final report said she had put a fellow officer in danger.

"The police department didn't believe her story, and they punished her severely," Brenda McDuffie, president and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League, told City & State New York.

"She lost her livelihood. I mean, which one of us who has any humanity, seeing someone choked to death, just like those officers [in Minneapolis] who should have said, 'Get off his neck.' ... Excessive force is something that we're finally dealing with as a nation. But we had a woman in our community who stood up and she has suffered greatly," she said.

Mayor Byron Brown (D) has told Spectrum News he tried to intervene on Horne's behalf to allow her to keep her pension and that then-Attorney General and current Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) office told him Horne had not served enough time to be eligible. He also claimed to have offered Horne a full-time job with benefits, which he said she turned down.

Police neck restraints in general and the Buffalo Police Department in general have been front and center in recent debates over policing.

Such restraints were used in the case of two black men whose deaths galvanized the movement, Eric Garner of Staten Island and George Floyd of Minneapolis, both of whom were recorded saying "I can't breathe" before their deaths.

The Buffalo Police Department has come under national scrutiny after footage emerged of two officers pushing 75-year-old activist Martin Gugino to the ground, leaving him motionless and bleeding on the sidewalk.

A spokesperson for James told The Hill the attorney general's office declined to comment "at the moment."

The Hill has reached out to Cuomo's office for comment.

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