The Murder of George Floyd Shines New Light on The Courage of Cariol Horne

pictured above and below: Cariol Horne (left) with children and  family members  at last Saturday’s protest rally and march  at the C-District Police Station. Challenger Photo

By Sabirah Muhammad

We’ve known for years – far too many years – that what former police officer Cariol Horne displayed when breaking the chokehold that was killing Neal Mack in November of 2006, was basic humanity, real love, and uncommon valor.  

But we could only imagine that scene, pieced together from her own testimony  and Neal Mack’s confirmation of what happened to him. On Monday, May 25th  on a city street in Minneapolis, that same scene left the realm of imagination, and became our collective, lived experience.   The dying groans of George Floyd, like the screams of Trayvon Martin,  have penetrated so deeply that people all over the world, more than two weeks after Floyd’s  killing, are still writhing in inconsolable agony.  And as we’ve rightly insisted that the officers at that scene who did nothing to stop the murder be held accountable, the courage and integrity of Cariol Horne comes into much sharper view, and our appreciation for her has deepened immeasurably. 

COURAGE: Cariol Horne (left) with childen, family members and supporters at last Saturday’s protest rally and march at the C-District Police Station. Challenger Photo

 We saw with our own eyes what happens without the presence of one – just one – with the courage to act. Can we be certain that former officer and inmate Gregory Kwiatkowski would have continued to choke handcuffed Neal Mack until he killed him? Cariol Horne can answer that question. As we re-double our efforts to secure the disability pension she was maliciously denied, we still ourselves to listen, as she speaks into this moment.  

 CN: (Challenger News): What were your impressions when you first heard about George Floyd and saw the video of that murder?

CARIOL  “I was very emotional. I knew it didn’t have to happen, and I was eager to do something about it, because I didn’t want it to happen again.” 

  CN: What can you say about what may have been going through the minds of the officers at the scene?

CARIOL: “Well, I think murder was on the mind of Derek Chauvin, because you don’t keep your knee on somebody’s neck that long and hear all the warnings and do nothing unless you purposely are trying to kill someone.” 

CN: “Why do you think the other officers didn’t intervene?” 

CARIOL: “They don’t want to lose their pensions. It boils down to money, and it shouldn’t. That’s the purpose of me trying to find a solution, to pass Cariol’s Law, which would establish (an officer’s) duty to intercede.  Officers don’t want to be ostracized, and lose every material thing that they have. They don’t want to lose their livelihood.” 

CN: Do you think that if you hadn’t pulled Greg Kwiatkowski’s arm from around Neal Mack’s neck, he might have actually killed him?

CARIOL: “Yes.”

CN: What’s your impression of the current protests, which are so large, intense, and sustained?

CARIOL: “People watched a man die right before their eyes. People are more outraged because they can better understand what Black people have been going through all these years. It wasn’t just them saying, it was actually them seeing what we’re talking about. George Floyd was already handcuffed, just like Neal Mack. Somebody could have stopped it, but they didn’t. In the Neal Mack incident, somebody could have stopped it, but nobody stopped it except for me.”

CN: And why did you? Why didn’t you just stand there like the other officers?

CARIOL: “It seemed like it was simple to stop it, and not have a man die for no reason.” 

CN:Did you think about your pension and livelihood in that moment? 

CARIOL: “No.”

CN: What were you thinking?

CARIOL: “I just thought that I needed to take his arm from around his neck so he could breathe. Neal Mack said he couldn’t breathe. 

CN: What effect did it have on you and your family to lose your pension, especially so close to retirement?

CARIOL:“We went through a lot financially, even being homeless. If you look at all of it, you’ll see,it had to be retaliation.” 

CN: Would you do it again? 

CARIOL: “Of course I would. His life is worth more than  a paycheck or a pension.  And (remaining silent and not taking action) was not worth me losing my mind, knowing that I let somebody die when they didn’t have to.” 

We can all join the fight to pass “Cariol’s Law,” and to secure her wrongfully denied pension, which can be released by the State Comptroller after Mayor Byron Brown vacates her dismissal and the grounds for that firing. 

 Join nearly 150,000 others on the Change.org petition, the Concerned Clergy of Buffalo, and a coalition of 100 other organizations that are fighting to make Cariol Horne whole.

Columnnist /Sabirah Muhammad