Erica Garner, who became an activist for police reform after her father’s words of “I can’t breathe” were used as a rallying cry for a movement, died Saturday after being in a coma for several days, according to a statement posted to her official Twitter account. She was 27.
Garner, the oldest daughter of Eric Garner, had been hospitalized at a Brooklyn, New York, hospital since going into cardiac arrest a week prior, her family said.
Her mother, Esaw Snipes-Garner, told the New York Daily News that the medical emergency was triggered by an asthma attack. Garner had suffered an earlier heart attack after giving birth to her son in August, Snipes-Garner said. Her heart was later found to be enlarged.
“Erica the world loves you. I love you. I am glad you came into our lives,” the family said in a tweet. “May you find the peace in the next life that you deserved while you were here.”
Garner gained national prominence after speaking out in the wake of her father’s death in 2014 — an incident caught on cellphone video and one of several high-profile police encounters involving unarmed black men.
The NYPD tried to arrest Eric Garner, 43, for allegedly peddling loose cigarettes. When he refused to be handcuffed, video showed him being taken down by an officer who put him in a chokehold. He was recorded repeating the phrase “I can’t breathe” 11 times, and later died at the hospital.
A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide. A grand jury declined to indict the officer involved, although the city of New York reached a $5.9 million settlement with the Garner family in 2015 for a wrongful-death lawsuit.
“Sometimes [people think] he had a heart attack … It’s a shame because I know what happened on that video,” Garner told NBCBLK in March 2015.
Eric Garner’s death drew condemnation from the Black Lives Matter movement and led New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to reexamine the department’s use-of-force policy and neighborhood policing program.
Garner became on outspoken critic of de Blasio, as well as the Democratic establishment, and was a public supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election.
She marched in demonstrations and set up a foundation in honor of her father. She also told NBCBLK that her goal was to continue fighting for justice for him and others caught in similar situations.
“People ask, ‘When will you stop marching? What do you want from marching?’ He was my father,” Garner said. “I will always march.”