Former Buffalo, New York police officer Cariol Horne received justice after a 15-year battle.

In 2006, the 53-year-old was fired after she stopped Gregory Kwiatkowski, a white police officer who had Neal Mack, a Black man, in a chokehold, as Blavity previously reported.

According to court documents, Horne removed the officer from the suspect’s neck and was struck in the face in the process. 

“Her conduct should have been encouraged, and instead she was fired,” Horne’s lawyer, W. Neil Eggleston, said in an interview, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

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

After tirelessly attempting to reverse her termination to no avail, on Tuesday, a state court judge exonerated Hamilton, who was just one year shy of the 20 years required to receive a full police pension when she was fired. 

“My vindication comes at a 15-year cost, but what has been gained could not be measured … I never wanted another police officer to go through what I had gone through for doing the right thing,” Horne said. 

Following the 2006 incident, Horne rejected a four-day suspension offer and was reassigned while Kwiatkowski sued Horne and her lawyer for defamation and won $65,000. After hearings in 2007 and 2008, the Buffalo Police Department concluded that Horne’s actions against her fellow officer were unjustified.

Kwiatkowski was promoted to lieutenant in 2008, the same year Horne was fired, but eventually was indicted on federal civil rights charges for admitting to using excessive force on four Black teenagers. He spent four months in prison.  

Judge Dennis Ward’s Tuesday ruling reverses an earlier decision that validated Horne’s firing and allows her to be reimbursed for the benefits she lost after being terminated. 

Ward wrote in his verdict “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,” CBS News reports.    

After footage of George Floyd’s death circulated around the internet in 2020, Horne said she was triggered by watching him die not only at the hands of police but with other officers around.

“Looking at the video, it was very upsetting, and I felt that if one of those officers had stepped in that he would be alive today,” she said in the interview. 

Though she was recently vindicated, Horne has achieved success in her efforts to rectify the past and prevent others from going through the same scrutiny she faced. 

Cariol’s Law, which allows police officers to intervene when they feel unnecessary force is being used and protects officers from being retaliated against, was approved by the Buffalo Common Council in an 8-1 vote in the fall of 2020, according to NBC 2. 

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