Erica Garner, the oldest daughter of police chokehold victim Eric Garner, died Saturday morning at age 27, according to multiple reports and her Twitter account.
Her death came a week after she was hospitalized for a heart attack that cut off the oxygen supply to her brain and caused major damage to that organ, according to the person tweeting from her account. She remained in a medically induced coma on Thursday.
Garner became an activist in the aftermath of her father’s death by police chokehold on Staten Island in 2014, calling for officer accountability and demanding justice for individuals killed during interactions with officers. In 2016, she supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in his bid for president by introducing him at a rally in South Carolina and appearing in a pro-Sanders ad with her 6-year-old daughter.
Erica Garner was hospitalized last Saturday night, after an asthma episode brought on the heart attack, the New York Times reported on Monday. Her Twitter account, however, has remained active throughout the past week, with someone speaking on her behalf.
“She passed away this morning,” that person said Saturday morning. “The reports are real. We didn’t deserve her.”
CT scans showed that Garner had “suffered major brain damage from a lack of oxygen while in cardiac arrest,” the person said in a tweet earlier this week.
Garner’s mother, Esaw Snipes, told the New York Daily News her daughter was still on life support Thursday afternoon, saying, “She’s not gone, she’s brain dead.”
The family “didn’t pull the plug on her,” Snipes told the Daily News on Saturday. “She was a warrior, she was a fighter …She left on her own terms.”
Garner’s Twitter account described her on Saturday morning as “car[ing] when most people wouldn’t have. She only pursued right, no matter what. No one gave her justice.”
Her father, Eric Garner, died in July 2014 after an NYPD officer placed him a banned chokehold while he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video captured his dying words of “I can’t breathe,” which have since become a rallying cry for protesters. In September, the Civilian Complaint Review Board recommended discipline against Officer Daniel Pantaleo for using a chokehold, a tactic prohibited by the police department, on Garner.
“Our hearts ache with the passing of Erica Garner — whose activism in the wake of her father’s killing put a greater spotlight on police brutality and the need for sweeping criminal justice reforms,” Tina Luongo, a Legal Aid Society attorney in charge of the group’s criminal defense practice, said in a statement Saturday. (Legal Aid has been fighting the city in court since 2016 to provide access to the disciplinary records of the police officer who used the chokehold on Eric Garner.) “We extend our deepest condolences to her family at this difficult time and hope justice one day soon will be secured for the Garners and all others reeling from the loss of a loved one killed by the police.”
For a family “who have already been through so much,” Erica Garner’s death “is a horrible tragedy,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet Saturday. “This city will miss her unshakable sense of justice and passion for humanity.”
At an unrelated press conference on Thursday, the mayor said she had just given birth to a child months ago.
Snipes, her mother, told the Times on Monday her daughter had learned about her heart problems during the pregnancy.
The widow of Eric Garner would not give the Times the name of the hospital where her daughter was being treated, but multiple sources and her Twitter account reported she was in the intensive care unit of Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn.
“Right now, the family is just praying and asking for everyone to keep her in their prayers,” Snipes told the Times.
A similar plea came from civil-rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has spoken against police brutality alongside members of the Garner family at multiple political events and who tweeted a photo of himself “leaving hospital after praying for Erica Snipes” on Monday morning.
The Garner family thanked the public for its support so far from Garner’s Twitter account Wednesday: “We appreciate your individual and collective prayers. You can hold off on monetary donations at the moment.”
Erica Garner is survived by her mother and her two children.