Garner was an outspoken advocate for police accountability, calling for justice and police reform following the 2014 death of her father, whose dying gasps of “I can’t breathe” as a New York City police officer restrained him became a rallying cry at Black Lives Matter protests.
“It is important for us to show the world we can stand together as one people,” Garner wrote in a 2015 blog post for HuffPost. “It’s even more important for our youth to see us standing together and fighting for what is right. It shows them that they can push back against a corrupt system without being a so-called ‘thug.’ … Justice means equity to us.”
Garner was hospitalized and put in a medically induced coma over Christmas weekend after going into cardiac arrest. Her mother, Esaw Snipes, told The New York Times that an asthma episode had triggered the heart attack.
Garner’s father had also suffered from asthma. He was videotaped repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe” when officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a chokehold while attempting to arrest him for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes on Staten Island. Eric Garner, who was 43, was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
A New York City medical examiner said the cause of death was homicide caused by Pantaleo’s “compression” of Garner’s chest. Pantaleo testified before a grand jury but was not indicted.
According to New York Daily News, Erica Garner learned she had heart problems about four months ago when she suffered her first heart attack shortly after the delivery of her son, whom she named after her father. Doctors said her already-enlarged heart had been stressed by the pregnancy.
On her website, Garner is described as an activist, writer, mother and “daddy’s girl.”
Since her father’s death, Garner has spoken extensively about her fight against police brutality and institutionalized racism. She also campaigned for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election and challenged then-President Barack Obama on why police officers found guilty of misconduct were not facing punishment.
Garner is survived by her mother, husband and two young children.