BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – For 10 years, Cariol Horne has insisted she was saving a suspect from serious injury or death because her partner subdued the man with a choke hold, and she broke it up. Horne was fired for that, and was ruled ineligible for a disability pension because she came up 10 months short to qualify for a police pension.
An activist group, the Buffalo Local Action Committee is now taking Horne’s case to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, with petitions bearing more than 170,000 from around the country, to review her qualifications.
Committee chairman Samuel Radford said, in a news conference Thursday, Horne should have been honored for her actions, not fired, “Cariol Horne is a hero in our community. She deserves justice.”
The Local Action Committee gathered the signatures through an Internet activist site, Change.org, and announced a final push of that effort they are calling “Ten years, ten days”, to gather even more signatures from November 10-20.
Radford said by saving drug suspect Neal Mack from harm on November 1, 2006, Horne might have saved Buffalo from the same racial strife that has plagued other cities where African American suspects have been killed by police officers.
“Cariol Horne prevented Buffalo from being like places in this community like Baltimore and Ferguson, and other places in the country where police officers have killed people.”
Horne’s supporters now say the former police officer is a victim of corruption. Her former partner, Greg Kwiatkowski was promoted to lieutenant after her firing, but Kwiatkowski has denied in public testimony he used a choke hold on Mack that violates departmental policy.
Kwiatkowski has also been indicted by a federal grand jury for using excessive force in a separate incident. Kwiatkowski associates were also indicted.
A state judge who affirmed Horne’s firing was caught up in a corruption scandal and had to step down from the bench. Horne said former State Comptroller Alan Hevesi upheld the denial of her disability pension application. Hevesi was forced to resign from his post after he was convicted on corruption charges and went to prison.
“Everybody who had a hand in this case, at the time, was corrupt,” interjected Patricia Elliott who is also on the Local Action Committee, “every last one of them were corrupt.”
Buffalo’s Common Council has even thrown its support behind Horne’s cause, but city attorneys have advised lawmakers, it is up to the state to make things right. So the Action Committee came up with the 10 Year/10 Day campaign to contact the State Comptroller to review Horne’s case.
Retired Buffalo Police Officer Annette Parker, said Horne needs the pension to support her family, “Had she not stopped Greg Kwiatkowski from choking Neal Mack, we probably would have had a big riot here in Buffalo. What if he would have ended up dead?”
Horne now says a review will show she is, in fact, eligible for a pension, that did serve more than 20 years on the force which should qualify her for the pension.
“Anyone that can count would know that from March 1, 1988 to May 8, 2008 is 20 years and 2 months, so I had my 20 years.”
Horne also said she put in for a disability retirement before she was fired, and that should also entitle her to disability benefits.