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Former Buffalo officer who stopped fellow cop's chokehold on suspect will get pension after winning lawsuit

A former Buffalo Police officer who said she was fired for intervening when a White officer attempted to choke a Black suspect will receive her pension after winning a lawsuit on Tuesday. The New York State Supreme Court vacated a previous ruling upholding the firing of Cariol Horne, CBS Buffalo affiliate WIVB-TV reports.

In his ruling, Judge Dennis Ward wrote that "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," Ward wrote.

Horne gained national attention in 2006 when she said she stopped officer Greg Kwiatkowski's chokehold on Neal Mack. 

"Neal Mack looked like he was about to die," Horne told "CBS This Morning" in an interview in 2020. "So had I not stepped in, he possibly could have. He was handcuffed and being choked."

She was ultimately fired in 2008, mere months before she was eligible to receive her full pension.

Kwiatkowski sued Horne and her lawyer for defamation. In 2011, a judge found that Horne's lawyer made eight statements that were considered 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."  

But Mack maintains 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 told "CBS This Morning" last year.

Mack sued five officers involved in his arrest in 2012. A jury found no wrongdoing in a ruling of 5 to 1. The juror who sided with Mack was the only Black person on the jury, reports the Buffalo News.

In 2018, Kwiatkowski was sentenced to four months in federal prison for a 2009 incident in which he used "unlawful and unreasonable force" against four black teenagers, including slamming their heads into a car. Ward said knowledge was not made available during "the original determinations in this case by both the hearing officer and this court."

"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," Ward added.

Horne is eligible for back pay and benefits through August 4, 2010.

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