A Recent History of NYPD Brutality

Amadou Diallo

Date: February 1999

In one of the most publicized and egregious cases of police brutality, 23-year-old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot and killed in the Bronx by plainclothes NYPD officers Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon, and Kenneth Boss. An astonishing 41 bullets were fired; 19 struck Diallo.

On the morning of February 4, Diallo was standing in front of his building when McMellon, Boss, Murphy, and Carroll drove past. They noted that Diallo matched the description of an armed serial-rapist and approached him (they would later claim that they clearly identified themselves as police). The officers claimed that Diallo ignored their orders to stop and show his hands, and instead ran towards his apartment. Illuminated by only an interior vestibule light, Diallo reached into his pocket and removed his wallet. When police saw him holding an object, Officer Carroll yelled, "Gun!" and the officers opened fire. Officer McMellon fell backward off the stairs, allegedly making the other officers believe that he'd been shot. The other officers continued shooting, burning through 41 bullets.

No weapons were found on Diallo.

In March 1999, all four officers were indicted by a Brox grand jury on charges of second degree murder and reckless endangerment. In December 1999, an appellate court ordered that the trial be moved to Albany, claiming that an alarming level of pretrial press had made it impossible for a fair trial to take place in New York City. In February 2000, all four officers were acquitted of all charges, and the defendant's lawyers blamed Diallo for his own death, claiming that he had prompted a 41-bullet hailstorm by behaving "suspiciously."

The verdict resulted in widespread outrage, leading to protests about racial profiling and police brutality. The fury continued when, in 2001, the United States Department of Justice decided that it would not charge the officers with violating Diallo's civil rights. However, in April 2000, Diallo's mother and stepfather filed a $61 million civil suit against the city, which included $20 million on top of $1 million for each bullet fired. They accepted a $3 million settlement in March 2004. In October 2012, Kenneth Boss, the only officer involved still on the force, was given his gun back after 13 years.

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