Activist Erica Garner, whose father’s death helped galvanize an emotional discussion about race and policing, died on Saturday, New York’s WABC reported. Her death was confirmed by a statement on her verified Twitter account. Garner, 27, had suffered significant brain damage this week after a heart attack, representatives said.
Garner came to prominence when her father, Eric Garner, died in 2014 after being put in a chokehold by a New York City police officer, an event that touched off protests across the country.
Erica Garner had been in a coma since Dec. 23, when she had an asthma attack that triggered a heart attack, according to the New York Daily News.”When her son was born in August, she named her newborn after her father,” the newspaper reports. “Garner suffered her first heart attack shortly after the delivery, with doctors saying the pregnancy stressed her already enlarged heart.”
A CT scan showed that Garner, who was being treated at a hospital in Brooklyn, suffered “major brain damage from a lack of oxygen while in cardiac arrest,” according to a statement posted Wednesday.
“When you report this you remember she was human: mother, daughter, sister, aunt,” according to a tweet Saturday on her Twitter account. “Her heart was bigger than the world. It really really was. She cared when most people wouldn’t have. She was good. She only pursued right, no matter what. No one gave her justice.”
Eric Garner died on Staten Island in July 2014, after being put in a chokehold by police officer Daniel Pantaleo. Pantaleo had been in the process of arresting Garner on the suspicion that he was selling loose cigarettes. The video of the encounter traveled around the world as Garner’s last words – “I can’t breathe” – became a rallying cry for advocates of policing reform, as stories and videos about the deaths of black men killed by the police continue to draw wide outrage.
A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in 2014; the officer remains on modified duty. A Justice Department probe into Garner’s death has yet to conclude.
Erica Garner used her prominence after his death to speak out against police abuse. She endorsed Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders for president and appeared in a campaign advertisement for the senator from Vermont, who posted a statement on Twitter earlier in the week in response to the news about her health.
“My thoughts are with Erica Garner,” he said. “I have had the privilege of joining with her at a number of events and was deeply impressed with her courage and insights.”