After the infamous police killing of Eric Garner, his daughter, Erica Garner, dedicated her life to getting justice for her father along with leading young people in a movement condemning police violence. Garner died Saturday, Dec. 30, after suffering a heart attack. She was 27.
Reports indicate that Garner had an asthma attack a week before she had a heart attack. She was taken to Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn where she was placed in a medically induced coma. Her family reported that she suffered major brain damage from a lack of oxygen while in cardiac arrest. She had an enlarged heart after the birth of her son.
“Her heart was bigger than the world. It really, really was,” Garner’s family said in a statement on her Twitter account. “She cared when most people wouldn’t have. She was good. She only pursued right, no matter what. No one gave her justice.”
Born in Brooklyn, Garner was the oldest of four children to her father and mother, Esaw Snipes. Garner gained prominence after her father died from a police chokehold caught on cellphone video on Staten Island in 2014. A Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict the NYPD officer involved, Daniel Pantaleo.
“She was a fighter, she was a warrior and she lost the battle,” Garner’s mother said in one report. “She never recovered from when her father died.”
Garner led marches twice a week for a year on Staten Island following her father’s death and started the Garner Way Foundation in his honor. She was notable for campaigning to have the transcripts of the grand jury into her father’s death made public.
Her quest for justice wasn’t confined to New York; Garner became one of the faces of the Black Lives Matter Movement leading marches and rallies across the nation. During the 2016 presidential race, she supported Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
“I had the honor of getting to know Erica and I was inspired by the commitment she made working toward a more just world for her children and future generations,” Sanders tweeted. “She was a fighter for justice and will not be forgotten.”
In 2017, after a meeting with the U.S. Justice Department, Garner spoke out about the department’s lack of answers to her family’s questions.
“I’m just trying to figure out if they saw the video yet and how long that takes,” she said on Twitter. “No debate…It’s a tape!”
In 2016, Garner got a private meeting with then-President Barack Obama after a town hall meeting hosted by ABC News on the two-year anniversary of her father’s killing. During the meeting she asked Obama about her father’s case. He replied that because of politics, he couldn’t put pressure on the Justice Department.
“I feel like no matter who ‘investigates’ the murder of my father, no one will go to jail in the end,” Garner said in 2016. “I use Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice and Mike Brown as my examples.”
In a statement, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Garner worked tirelessly to bring awareness about and justice for her father despite being so young.
“Many will say that Erica died of a heart attack, but that’s only partially true because her heart was already broken when she couldn’t get justice for her father,” Sharpton said. “Her heart was attacked by a system that would choke her dad and not hold accountable those that did it.”
During an interview, Garner said that the justice system had failed her and her family and will continue to fail Black Americans unless there is change.
“Until there is full transparency, accountability and an end to the 13th Amendment, Black lives will continue to be worthless in the eyes of the law,” she said.
A vigil to honor Garner was held on Staten Island Wednesday night at Eric Garner’s Memorial Site on Bay Street.
Garner’s funeral service was held Monday at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem.
She is survived by her two children; her mother, Esaw Snipes; four siblings, Eric, Emery, Legacy and Emerald; and her grandmother, Gwen Carr.