BUFFALO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Protests over police brutality are putting new scrutiny on the role of officers who witness fellow officers using excessive force.
Former Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne was fired in 2008 after she says she stopped a white officer’s chokehold on a black suspect in handcuffs.
Now, the Buffalo City Council is asking the New York State Attorney General to investigate Horne’s firing.
“Looking at the video, um, it was very upsetting. And I felt that if one of those officers had stepped in that he would be alive today,” Horne said.
Horne, a nearly 20-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department, says the image of George Floyd dying at the hands of police is triggering.
In 2006, then-officer Horne made headlines after intervening when she says fellow officer Greg Kwiatkowski was choking a black suspect, Neal Mack.
Horne says she jumped in because Mack “looked like he was about to die.”
“So had I not stepped in, he possibly could have. He was handcuffed and being choked,” she said.
The Buffalo Police Department brought disciplinary charges against Horne and fired her in 2008, a few months before she was eligible to receive a full pension.
Kwiatkowski sued Horne and her lawyer for defamation.
In 2011, a judge found that eight statements Horne’s lawyer made were defamatory and false, including the claim that Horne “saved the life of a suspect who was already in handcuffs and was being choked out by Officer Greg Kwiatkowski.”
Mack, the suspect at the center of the nearly 14-year-old case, maintains to this day that Horne saved his life.
“He was choking me. I was handcuffed. Cariol Horne said, ‘You killin’ him, Greg’ and she reached over and tried to grab his hand around my neck,” Mack said.
In 2012, in a lawsuit brought by Mack, a jury found no wrongdoing by the Buffalo police officers involved in his arrest.
As for Greg Kwiatkowski, he was sentenced to four months in federal prison in 2018 for using “unlawful and unreasonable force” against four black teenagers.
“Unlawful unnecessary force, the same thing that I said he did,” Horne said.
Horne says she’s turned her pain into activism.
When she saw the recent video of Buffalo Police pushing a 75-year-old protester to the ground, she says it was yet another trigger.
“So now if they can push the 75-year-old white man when it’s still daylight out, just think of what they do to our young black kids at nighttime,” Horne said.
Horne says these days, she’s at peace because she stands by what she did.
Still, she broke down when she was asked how this has impacted her children.
“It’s important for me to be truthful because this has been a lot of years. So when you talk about where did the raw emotion come from it’s because … I have fought all of these years and tried to keep it together for my children,” Horne said.
Horne is fighting for her full pension and is pushing legislation called Cariol’s Law to protect police who intervene from being retaliated against.
The Buffalo Police Department says that in 2006, Officer Horne requested that her case be reviewed by an independent arbitrator. The arbitrator recommended termination after lengthy hearings and the police commissioner followed that recommendation.
Former Buffalo Police Lt. Greg Kwiatkowski could not be reached, and his former lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.
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