Amadou Bailo Diallo (September 2, 1975 – February 4, 1999) was a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea who was shot and killed in New York City on February 4, 1999 by four New York City Police Department plain-clothed officers: Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss, who fired a combined total of 41 shots, 19 of which struck Diallo, outside his apartment at 1157 Wheeler Avenue in the Soundview section of The Bronx. The four were part of the now-defunct Street Crimes Unit. All four officers were acquitted at trial in Albany, New York.
Diallo was unarmed at the time of the shooting, and a firestorm of controversy erupted subsequent to the event as the circumstances of the shooting prompted outrage both within and outside New York City. Issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, and contagious shooting were central to the ensuing controversy.
2 Events surrounding death
4 Cultural references to Diallo
5 See also
5.1 Similar cases
7 External links
One of four children of Saikou and Kadiatou Diallo, Amadou’s family is part of an old Fulbe trading family in Guinea. He was born in Sinoe County, Liberia, while his father was working there, and grew up following his family to Togo, Bangkok, and Singapore, attending schools in Thailand, and later in Guinea and London, including Microsoft’s Asian Institute. In September 1996, he came to New York City where other family members had immigrated. He and a cousin started a business. He had reportedly come to New York City to study but had not enrolled in any school. He sought to remain in the United States by filing an application for political asylum under false pretenses. He sold videotapes, gloves and socks from the sidewalk along 14th Street during the day and studied in the evenings.
Events surrounding death
In the early morning of February 4, 1999, Diallo was standing near his building after returning from a meal. Police officers Edward McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy passed by in a Ford Taurus. Observing that Diallo matched the description of a since-captured well-armed serial rapist involved in the rape or attempted rape of 51 victims, they approached him. The officers were in plain clothes.
The officers claimed they loudly identified themselves as NYPD officers and that Diallo ran up the outside steps toward his apartment house doorway at their approach, ignoring their orders to stop and “show his hands”. The porch lightbulb was out and Diallo was backlit by the inside vestibule light, showing only a silhouette. Diallo then reached into his jacket and withdrew his wallet. Seeing the suspect holding a small square object, Carroll yelled “Gun!” to alert his colleagues. Believing Diallo had aimed a gun at them at close range, the officers opened fire on Diallo. During the shooting, lead officer McMellon tripped backward off the front stairs, causing the other officers to believe he had been shot. The four officers fired 41 shots, more than half of which went astray as Diallo was hit 19 times.
The post-shooting investigation found no weapons on Diallo’s body; the item he had pulled out of his jacket was not a gun, but a rectangular black wallet. The internal NYPD investigation ruled the officers had acted within policy, based on what a reasonable police officer would have done in the same circumstances with the information they had. The Diallo shooting led to a review of police training policy and the use of full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets. On March 25, 1999 a Bronx grand jury indicted the four officers on charges of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment. On December 16, an appellate court ordered a change of venue to Albany, New York, stating that pretrial publicity had made a fair trial in New York City impossible. On February 25, 2000, after two days of deliberation, a mixed-race jury in Albany acquitted the officers of all charges. Officer Kenneth Boss had been previously involved in an incident where an unarmed man was shot, but remained working as a police officer. A 22-year-old man, Patrick Bailey, died after Boss shot him on October 31, 1997. As of 2012 Boss is the only remaining officer working for the NYPD.
Diallo’s death, the change of venue, and the verdict each sparked massive demonstrations against police brutality and racial profiling, resulting in more than 1,700 arrests over the course of many weeks. Those arrested in the daily protests at the entrance of One Police Plaza included former NYPD officers, former mayor David Dinkins, Congressmen Charlie Rangel and Gregory Meeks, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, New York State Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr., activist actress Susan Sarandon, more than a dozen rabbis and other clergy, and numerous federal, state, and local politicians. Charges against the protesters were later dropped.
In 2001, the Justice Department announced it would not charge the officers with a violation of Diallo’s civil rights. In the vestibule where Diallo died, neighbors created a shrine of letters, teddy bears, and other items. Within several weeks, there was a severe rain period and the landlord of the building put all the items in the garbage. A neighbor, Jimmy Spice Curry, rescued the items, storing them until he was able to contact Eugene Adams,[who?] of Bronx Community College, who was given the items to donate to Diallo’s mother.
On April 18, 2000, Diallo’s mother, Kadiatou, and his stepfather, Sankarella Diallo, filed a US$61,000,000 ($20m plus $1m for each shot fired) lawsuit against the City of New York and the officers, charging gross negligence, wrongful death, racial profiling, and other violations of Diallo’s civil rights. In March 2004, they accepted a US$3,000,000 settlement. The much lower final settlement was still reportedly one of the largest in the City of New York for a single man with no dependents under New York State’s “wrongful death law”, which limits damages to pecuniary loss by the decedent’s next of kin.
Anthony H. Gair, lead counsel for the Diallo family, argued that Federal common law should apply, pursuant to Section 1983 of the civil rights act. In April 2002, as a result of the killing of Diallo and other controversial actions, the Street Crime Unit was disbanded. In 2003, Diallo’s mother, Kadiatou Diallo, published a memoir, My Heart Will Cross This Ocean: My Story, My Son, Amadou (ISBN 0-345-45600-9), with the help of author Craig Wolff. Diallo’s death became an issue in the 2005 mayoral election in New York City. Bronx borough president, and mayoral candidate, Fernando Ferrer, who had protested the circumstances of the killing at the time, later told a meeting of police sergeants that although the shooting had certainly been a tragedy, there was subsequently a move to “over-indict” the officers involved, which led to criticism of Ferrer by the Diallo family and many others following the case.
The event spurred subsequent social psychology research. A number of experiments have conducted with both undergraduate volunteers and police officers playing a computer game where they must choose whether to shoot or not to shoot a target who may be white or black, on the basis of whether or not they are armed. Such studies find that participants made slower and less accurate decisions on whether to shoot an unarmed black target than an unarmed white target, and were quicker and more likely to correctly decide to shoot an armed black target than an armed white target. Both black and white participants respond in this manner. No correlations have been found between participant’s indicated levels of racial bias, and their performance in the games.
Amadou Diallo is buried in the village of Hollande Bourou in the Fouta Djallon region of Guinea, West Africa, where his extended family resides.
Cultural references to Diallo
The Diallo shooting has been referenced in the music of 88 Keys, Bruce Springsteen’s song “American Skin (41 Shots)”, the Ziggy Marley song “I Know You Don’t Care About Me”, the Trivium song “Contempt Breeds Contamination” and the song “Diallo” by Wyclef Jean.
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