The daughter of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man killed by an NYPD officer in the summer of 2014, suffered a heart attack and went into a medically induced coma just before Christmas. Now Erica Garner has been declared brain dead with no chance of recovery. She has two children. The 27-year-old became a well known activist following her father's death, and helped his dying words, "I can't breathe," become a rallying cry for justice across the country.
Garner had her second heart attack on Saturday, just ahead of the Christmas holidays. Her family posted on social media and spoke with New York newspapers about her condition. "So my sister had another heart attack last night and she's in critical condition....I just left the hospital and it's not looking good...I pray she makes it she has two little ones to live for," wrote Erica's sister, Emerald Snipes, on Facebook.
On Thursday morning the family was being called in to say their final goodbyes. "She’s not gone, she’s brain dead,” Esaw Snipes, Garner’s mother, told The New York Daily News. “Physically she is still with us."
Wednesday night, Garner's twitter account posted an update. "Cat scan shows Erica suffered major brain damage from a lack of oxygen while in cardiac arrest. Please continue to pray hard for Erica and pray for her family and kids just as much," the tweet read.
The heart attack stemmed from Garner's asthma, the same condition that made her father so vulnerable to the police officer's deadly and illegal chokehold. Erica's mother told The New York Daily News that Garner suffered her first heart attack after the birth of her second child four months ago. Doctors discovered that she had an enlarged heart, which the pregnancy had strained.
Over the holiday weekend a statement from her Twitter account from the family asked "that you take this holiday to enjoy your loved ones and for self care."
After her father's death in 2014, Garner became an activist, organizing a die-in on the same Staten Island corner where her father was killed. She also worked to hold Mayor Bill de Blasio accountable after he refused to release the offending officer's records to the public. "God has a way of exposing fraud ... Bill De Blasio can say whatever he wants. Black people here get no justice in his administration in NYC," Garner wrote on social media after noting that his personal relationships (the mayor's wife is black), haven't meant a change in policy.
Garner was influential in the 2016 presidential election. During the primary she endorsed Bernie Sanders and attacked establishment politicians for failing her father. In aWashington Post op-ed, she wrote:
I trusted establishment Democrats who claimed to represent me, only to later watch them ignore and explain away the injustice of my father’s death. I trusted the system; then I watched as politicians on both sides of the aisle — from Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel to Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder — disregard the will of the people they were elected to represent and abdicate their responsibility to protect them. I’ve watched as our system criminalizes blackness while allowing Wall Street to bilk the American people with impunity.
After Hillary Clinton won the nomination, Wikileaks with the help of Russia released campaign emails including some that mentioned Garner. The campaign debated whether or not to include a mention of Eric Garner in an op-ed about gun control, seemingly due to the fact that Erica supported Sanders. Another staffer responded noting that Garner was killed by police violence, but not guns. "I'm troubled by the revelation that you and this campaign actually discussed 'using' Eric Garner ... Why would you want to 'use' my dad," Erica tweeted after the emails surfaced.
This July the Department of Justice got in touch with Garner regarding the investigation into her father's death. The officer was acquitted in his criminal trial, but the DOJ decided to investigate civil rights violations in the case. “The DOJ just reached out to me and said they want to meet to give me an update," Garner wrote at the time, adding that she had little hope that justice would be granted for her father.
While the DOJ's investigation has not ended, it now looks unlikely Garner will see justice for her father's death.