Watch CBSN Live

Cariol Horne, former officer who was fired after stopping 2006 chokehold, "kept fighting" for justice

Buffalo cop vindicated after 2008 termination
Buffalo cop vindicated after 2008 termination... 04:56

Former Buffalo, New York police officer Cariol Horne said she has never stopped believing in the justice system. A judge recently ruled her department pension be reinstated despite an abrupt firing 15 years ago.

"I did think this day would come, that's why I kept fighting," she told CBS News' Jericka Duncan.

Horne was dismissed after she tried to break up a confrontation involving a chokehold between a White officer and a Black man in 2006. She made headlines after she tried to stop fellow officer Greg Kwiatkowski from choking a suspect named Neal Mack.

Horne says she was struck in the face by Kwiatkowski during this time. 

And after watching George Floyd stop breathing under the knee of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Horne recalled why she intervened. 

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

Mack, who also spoke to "CBS This Morning" in the same time period, maintains 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 previously recalled.

The mother of five was fired by her department after it found her use of force against a fellow officer was unjustified. She was terminated just months before being eligible to receive her full pension.

Greg Kwiatkowski was later sentenced to four months in federal prison in 2018 for using "unlawful and unreasonable force" against four Black teenagers.

In October of last year the city's mayor signed the Duty to Intervene law, which would require police to step in if a fellow officer uses excessive force. Horne helped craft the legislation and has been pushing for it since 2016.

"We don't want other officers to go through what I've gone through, but we don't want other victims to go through what George Floyd went through," she said.

That same month, with the help of attorneys Ron Sullivan and Intisar Rabb, Horne filed a lawsuit to overturn her 2008 termination. 

Just this week a New York State judge ruled that Horne's pension — which she said is worth at least $800,000 — must be reinstated.

Attorney Ron Sullivan Jr. explained their legal argument.

"We asked the judge to vacate the decision, get rid of the decision and reinstate her nunc pro tunc, a Latin phrase, which means bring it back to 2008 and fix this thing," he said. "So it's called an equitable remedy that allows judges to go back in the interest of justice."

In an 11-page opinion, the judge quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saying "the time is always right to do right."

"The city of Buffalo has recognized the error and has acknowledged the need to undo an injustice from the past," the statement continued.

Asked what went through her mind when she read the judge's words, Horne described feeling vindicated.

"Finally, somebody gets it, somebody understands," she said.

Sullivan agreed.

"It was a powerful decision," he said. "And really said what needed to be said. It was a gross injustice that happened to carry on. And he basically said, look, we're sorry we got this wrong."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.