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 attorney general to investigate Horne’s firing.
Horne, a nearly 20-year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department, told CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan the image of George Floyd dying at the hands of police in Minneapolis is triggering.
“Looking at the video, it was very upsetting, and I felt that if one of those officers has stepped in that he would be alive today,” she said.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while he was on the ground and handcuffed, was fired and later charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers at the scene were charged with aiding and abetting a murder.
In 2006, then-officer Horne made headlines after intervening when she says fellow officer Greg Kwiatkowski was choking a black suspect, Neal Mack.
“Neal Mack looked like he was about to die,” Horne said. “So had I not stepped in, he possibly could have. He was handcuffed and being choked.”
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 killing 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 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 said she has turned her pain into activism. When she saw the video of Buffalo police pushing a 75-year-old protestor to the ground, she said she was disgusted.
“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,” she said.
Horne said she’s at peace because she stands by what she did. Still, she broke down when 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,” she said.
Horne is now fighting for her full pension and pushing to pass Cariole’s Law, which she said would protect police who intervene from being retaliated against.
The Buffalo Police Department told CBS News that in 2006, Horne requested that her case be reviewed by an independent arbitrator. The arbitrator recommended termination after lengthy hearings and the police commissioner at the time followed that recommendation.
Former Buffalo police lieutenant Kwiatkowski could not be reached, and his former lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.